After being bought out by Merck in June 2023 for nearly $11 billion, some of the ex-brass from Prometheus Biosciences headed to a spear-shaped peninsula in Mexico surrounded on three sides by white sand beaches, Pacific Ocean waters, and lush tropical flora for some rest and relaxation. But playing golf and taking in the sea breeze in the coveted hideaway of Punta Minta wasn’t enough to keep Mark C. McKenna, the former chairman, president, and CEO of Prometheus Biosciences, from getting back into the game of making medicines. 

“The transaction with Merck was bittersweet,” McKenna told GEN Edge. “They were the right buyers, and it was the right time to do it… But there was a lot of unfinished business at Prometheus. There was a realization that we could all go work for different companies, or we could come back together and finish the mission. The field of data science is evolving so rapidly, so we were only scratching the surface.” 

Mark McKenna Mirador Therapeutics
Mark C. McKenna, founder, chairman, and CEO of Mirador Therapeutics

About three-quarters of a year after the buy-out, McKenna, with some Prometheus veterans and new additions, unveiled Mirador Therapeutics with the vision to bring “end-to-end” precision medicine into immunology and inflammation. Behind a $400 million Series A and their proprietary platform, Mirador360, Mirador plans to leverage open-source human genetics data and cutting-edge data science, which, according to McKenna, will enable the company to file for investigational new drugs (INDs) by 2025. 

“We believe that based on our experience in this category, we have a unique vantage point,” said McKenna, alluding to the company’s name, which directly translates to viewpoint in Spanish. 

Prometheus veterans Olivier Laurent, PhD, Allison Luo, MD, Tim Andrews, Vika Brough, Nori Ebersole, and Jordan Zwick will join McKenna at Mirador Therapeutics in San Diego, CA. As for new faces, Mirador has brought on William J. Sandborn, MD, who previously served as a professor of medicine and chief of the division of gastroenterology at the University of California, San Diego, for ten years and co-founded Santarus and Shoreline Biosciences. 

“It’s what you do with the data.” 

For Prometheus, that surface consisted of a clinical database and associated biobank exclusively licensed from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. It included more than 200,000 samples linked to extensive clinical data from 20,000+ patients collected over 20 years. According to McKenna, the problem with that is that technology changes.  

McKenna said, “One of the things that big pharma, whether Regeneron or others, is realizing is that sequencing techniques and data science are evolving so quickly, and we need them to continue to invest in democratizing data and sequencing patients. Thank you, George [Yancopoulos] from Regeneron, for all you do at the UK Biobank and other places because that allows for innovation. I don’t believe the data itself is what’s proprietary. I think that what you do with the data is. The technologies allowing these data sets to be interwoven and translated more rapidly than ever weren’t available months ago.” 

Mirador’s scope of indications will go much broader than just inflammatory bowel disease. McKenna said Mirador is building a data cohort that straddles the disease areas they’re interested in—gastrointestinal tract, lung, and skin diseases—from a combination of open-source data and proprietary academic partnerships. 

End-to-end precision medicine 

According to McKenna, end-to-end means Mirador will discover and validate genetic associations with immuno-fibrotic diseases, identify novel therapeutic targets and optimal target-target pairs for potential combination therapies, develop diagnostics, and stratify heterogeneous patient populations for precise clinical development. 

“No one’s been able to do this before,” said McKenna. “We can put this on steroids and move the field further. It’s not the beginning but certainly not the end either.” 

In the last twenty years, McKenna said that he’s learned several lessons, none more important than properly managing and stratifying risk. This is particularly applicable to committing to using a single therapeutic modality. McKenna said that Mirador will not be afraid to try novel approaches from a modality perspective, but it will not be at the core of what they do.  

“If you think about the evolution here… [In the early days, you started] with an entrepreneur or scientist with one idea and a biased binary outcome,” said McKenna. “Then we shifted to this platform-focused idea: create all this data and then ask, is there actually a product? In version 3.0, it is more like a pipeline and a drug. We are focused on and have expertise in biologics. But we’re agnostic to what it is once it’s in the clinic, and we will have approaches with biologics working on targets that we find interesting and can be best-in-class. You have got to think about this for stratification very carefully.” 

Momentum-gaining investments 

The massive $400 million round of funding began through discussions with six investors, some of whom had previously worked with Prometheus; some were new relationships. 

“I wanted to work with people who had a big vision for doing transformational stuff and had a track record doing so, and I’m not sure you could have found better leads than ARCH [Venture Partners], OrbiMed, and Fairmount [Partners],” said McKenna. “Each of them brings different things to the table. At ARCH, [co-founder and managing director] Bob Nelson has big visionary ideas. [Managing director] Kristina Burrow understands how companies operate. You have OrbiMed’s public-market understanding. You have Fairmount and their ability to build companies. Then you have these different investors, like Fidelity—when was the last time Fidelity entered a Series A? So, we hand-selected these investors.”  

McKenna said the $400 million will go to multiple programs, INDs, and clinical data. It will allow Mirador to in-license external innovation that would benefit from our platform.

“We never went out and said, We want to raise $400 million,” said McKenna. “We said we will raise [$100 million], which started as a snowball. This is more dilution than necessary in the early days. We want to have a war chest to go in, create value, and build a pursuing medicine engine that people just haven’t been able to do.”

McKenna also said that Mirador will engage in external innovation, finding programs and companies that benefit from its platform, expertise, and know-how to accelerate the company’s pace.  

“Time is the new currency, particularly in biotech, and you see a lot of companies spending years and years to figure it out and burning a lot of cash to get there,” said McKenna. “One of the most remarkable things about the journey from Prometheus was that, in three and a half years, we created value, and the goal was never to build something to sell—the goal was to build a great company. If we build a great company and focus on inputs, the output will come. That’s exactly what we’re doing here [at Mirador]. This team is fired up, and it’s not about the money; it’s about what kind of impact we can actually have.” 

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