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Leto Laboratories Raises over $15 Million in Series B+ Financing Round for Protein Engineering

Published: August 4, 2021

News summary
Leto Laboratories Co., Ltd. ("Leto Labs") announced the closing of a Series B+ financing of over $15.64 Million (RMB 100 million) from China Capital Management Co., Ltd. The company intends to use the proceeds to continue the development of its polypeptides and anticancer cytokines pipeline.

Earlier than this, Leto Labs had completed financing from Sherpa Healthcare Partners, Med-Fine Capital, Qirong Venture Capital, and Hygeia Capital, then closed the Series B financing from Yijing Capital, Qiaojing Capital, and Changping Science Park Development in Oct. 2020. In the very next year, Leto Labs obtained a strategic investment from TopAlliance. Recognized by investors one after another, Leto Labs would like to thank its team for their dedication in innovation, existing investors for their strong support, and the new investor China Capital Management for its trust.


Founded in 2014, Leto Laboratories is an innovation and R&D-driven biotechnology platform company. It focuses on the engineering and process design of recombinant proteins and engages in developing recombinant protein drugs such as polypeptides, cytokines, and enzymes. Core technologies such as protein directional refolding and protein engineering are adopted to address the hurdles in manufacturing and patents in biopharmaceutical and protein product development. With these foundational technologies, Leto Labs aims to break the foreign monopoly in protein drug engineering and manufacturing and fill in the technological gaps that the domestic industry is facing in this field.


Independent Innovation from Zero to One

Breaking Up Technology Monopoly


The founder of Leto Labs, Dr. Zhang Wei, completed his PhD in Medicinal Chemistry at the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Manchester, and his mentor is Professor Ken Douglas whose research focuses on proteins and molecular diagnostics. Dr. Zhang then worked as a senior research fellow studying mechanisms in cell biology in The Institute of Cancer Research. He also conducted research on small-molecule targeted drugs in the US, before joining Novo Nordisk back in China and a 5-year drug development there.


Dr. Zhang is the very person who led Leto Labs’ independent development of directional protein refolding, one of the core technologies Leto holds in hand. It uses prokaryotes to produce recombinant proteins, then restructure them and their functions in vitro. This technology breaks the yield and cost control limitations of utilizing eucaryotes and it especially fits for the design and development of small-molecule protein drugs such as polypeptides and cytokines.


Normally proteins expressed in prokaryotes are devoid of correct folding and are thus inactive and not applicable, so it is with proteins from E.coli, though it represents the most common and stable exogenous protein expression system so far as prokaryotes.


Leto Laboratories, on the other hand, can efficiently refold the denatured solid proteins (inclusion bodies) expressed by E. coli into highly active foldable proteins with its directional refolding technology, hence developing high value-added protein drugs at a low cost, such as semaglutide, teriparatide, interleukins, growth factors, and other commonly known protein drugs, all can be developed in this fashion.


As a complicated and empirical process, it’s widely known that inclusion body- based protein refolding requires years of experience in protein process development and deep insights into protein properties. And the key to produce genetically engineered protein products is the refolding protocol and formulation, considering that each type of protein has its specificity, making it a major technical barrier for prokaryotic protein process development and production.


In the past several years, Leto Laboratories has successfully developed multiple recombinant protein drugs pipeline with independent innovation and IPR, all made possible by its refolding technology and state-of-the-art protein engineering and design. It also built diversified cooperation models with many listed and prestigious pharmaceutical companies, such as joint and licensed R&D. Its pipelines include anticancer, orphan, and pediatric drugs that are most in-demand by the market and clinical settings. Some other self-developed pipelines have also attracted attention from a number of listed pharmaceutical enterprises.


As the investor of this financing round, China Capital Management said that, "We are committed to investing in excellent platform-based and technologically-innovative companies in the field of innovative drugs. Leto Laboratories is an ideal company with excellent innovation capabilities in terms of polypeptides and non-antibody proteins, especially that it has achieved great breakthroughs in multiple cytokine-based product developments".


About China Capital Management

China Capital Management Co., Ltd., wholly owned by CSC Financial Co., Ltd., was established on Jul. 31, 2009, and is one of the first securities companiesto try and make direct investments. China Capital Management has made equity investment in over 170 enterprises, managing a fund over RMB 50.5 billion according to the official record of its supervisory body.