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LeadingTac: Leading the Targeted Protein Degradation Track to Make Global Innovative Innovative Drugs

Recently, Dr. Yan Feng, the founder of LeadingTac, was selected as one of the "Pearl Leading Talent" in Pudong New Area in 2023 after passing the strict evaluation by the Talent Expert Group of Pudong New Area Committee for his targeted protein degradation project.

China's new drug R&D has experienced peaks and valleys, and as a veteran of the biopharmaceutical industry, Yan Feng himself has a deep understanding of this. As a veteran of the biopharmaceutical industry, Yan Feng knows this very well. As early as in 2005, he started his career in innovative drug discovery and development, and since then he has been working on it for more than a decade. Nowadays, he is leading Leadtek to contribute to China's new drug R&D on the track of targeted protein degradation.


Seizing Opportunities to Target the Targeted Protein Degradation Market

After graduating from the Department of Chemistry of Nankai University in 1996, Yan Feng went to the Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) to complete his Ph.D. and then went to the University of Michigan in the U.S.A. In 2005, Yan Feng returned to his home country with the dream of putting what he had learned into practice and joined White Heron Pharmaceuticals, which is engaged in the research and development of innovative drugs for diabetes mellitus.

However, the R&D process of innovative drugs is by no means smooth. Especially in those years, domestic pharmaceutical companies generally focused on generic drugs, and very few of them did R&D of new drugs. In the following years, Yan Feng bounced between China and the United States many times, from postdoc to executive and back to researcher, accumulating experience in the field of disease and drug development on the one hand, and waiting for the right time on the other hand, waiting for the ideal of R&D of innovative drugs to become a reality.

Figure: LeadingTaclogical Laboratory

In 2010, a large number of innovation-oriented pharmaceutical companies started to rise in China. Following this wave of returnees, Yan Feng went back to China and joined Sandia, a CRO, where he first came across the concept of "targeted protein degradation drug" through communication with clients. There, he first came across the concept of "targeted protein degradation drug" through communication with clients.

The so-called "Targeted Protein Degradation (TPD), is an emerging drug development strategy, through the targeted degradation of specific proteins, to achieve the effective removal of disease-causing proteins in the cell. It is reported that the mechanism of action of traditional small molecule drugs is mostly through the binding of the active site of the target protein, thereby inhibiting the function of the target protein, equivalent to "unlocking"; and TPD technology can be achieved through targeted degradation of specific proteins to effectively remove disease-causing proteins within the cell, equivalent to the direct use of a hammer to the "The TPD technology can effectively remove disease-causing proteins from cells through targeted degradation of specific proteins, which is equivalent to knocking out the lock directly with a hammer.

Since 2019, the U.S. company Arvinas put the first protein degradation-targeted chimeric (PROTAC) drug ARV-110 into the clinic, PROTAC drugs have attracted a lot of attention in the market. Because of its wide range of targets, high activity, ability to accurately target and degrade target proteins and other characteristics, Nature is directly "the next big bomb drug" to evaluate PROTAC drugs.

After recognizing the huge potential of the targeted protein degradation drug market, at the end of 2019, Yan Feng establishedLeadingTac in Zhangjiang, Shanghai, and began to gather his efforts to invest in the research and development of this nascent class of drugs.


Making globally innovative products for the autoimmune track

Innovative drug R&D is always an involutional path, and startups have to make differentiation and create their own technological barriers in order to survive. Yan Feng noticed that in the current PROTAC drug R&D market, 99.9% of companies take tumor as the first pipeline, while the autoimmune disease direction is in a blank.

The so-called autoimmune diseases are a group of illnesses caused by dysregulation of the immune system. Normally, the body's immune system recognizes and attacks invading pathogens to protect the body from infection. However, when a patient has an autoimmune disease, the immune system incorrectly recognizes normal tissues and organs as enemies, leading to a series of inflammatory reactions and tissue damage.

According to the literature, there are more than 100 known immune disorders, and the vast majority of these indications have no cure. The high demand has also created a significant potential market, with the autoimmune market's "king of drugs," Humira, for example, generating sales of approximately $20 billion annually.

Currently, LT-002, a novel protein degradation agent for IRAK4 independently developed byLeadingTaclogics, has been approved by the National Drug Administration (NMPA) of China to carry out clinical phase I trials for the indications of septic sweating inflammation and atopic dermatitis. The product was screened based on Leadtek's existing targeted protein degradation new drug development platform Nano-SPUD®; it has demonstrated strong activity in improving skin inflammation symptoms and good safety in preclinical animal models.

Leadingtac IRAK4 Novel Protein Degradation Agent LT-002

"The program we are doing is something globally innovative, with no reference at all." Yan Feng introduced, "The companies in the world with the same target as ours have only made it to phase II clinic now." It can be said that in this field,LeadingTac has achieved the first in China and the second in the world.

In addition to IRAK4 degraders, the development of other pipeline-targeted protein degraders from Leadtek has shown promise, with the second pipeline's preclinical candidate compound, PCC, having been selected and scheduled to advance to the clinic by the end of 2024. The lead compound for the third pipeline is being optimized and is expected to be submitted for IND filing in Q1 2025.


Actively planning for Series A financing to help become a track leader

Within just a few years,LeadingTac has made good progress in team building, platform construction and product development. The company now has twenty employees, of which 58% have postgraduate degrees or above and 16% have doctoral degrees or above. Meanwhile, Nano-SPUD, a drug discovery platform for ubiquitination and degradation of specific target proteins independently developed by Leadtek's team, has also been completed.

At present, in order to accelerate the research and development of each product pipeline and further enhance the competitiveness of the company in the market,LeadingTac is actively planning for financing. Previously, they have completed angel and Pre-A rounds of financing totaling nearly 90 million RMB, led by Zhangke Leader Eagle and Yuan Sheng Venture Capital respectively. The financing target for this round is 100 million, and the proceeds will be invested in the subsequent development of the product.

In the future, LeadingTac will continue to focus on its existing product pipeline and actively collaborate with domestic and international biopharmaceutical companies to promote innovation and breakthroughs in pharmaceutical science and technology, and to provide patients around the world with more choices of innovative drugs. As the name LeadingTac suggests, they will strive to become the leader in the targeted protein degradation track.


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