Liangsu Wang joins Morphic Therapeutic as Head of Biology – here’s the reason she came to Morphic

Liangsu Wang polaroid photoA Pot of Gold.

I was looking into Novel Targets at Merck about a year ago, specifically for diabetic retinopathy. I became very excited about integrins as potential targets for diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration.

It turned out my colleagues were also interested in integrins for many other indications.

That was the time when the pot of gold analogy first struck me. I still remember using the phrase in emails with one of my direct reports.

Vast opportunities: Multiple targets; Multiple indications; Potential for pharmacological integrin combinations.

integrin-opportunities

But quickly we realized the numerous and daunting challenges in the area.

That’s why I became so excited when I first learned about Morphic and its approach. I got the feeling that the moment for integrins as drug targets for oral therapies has arrived.


BIO

Liangsu Wang, PhD., joins Morphic Therapeutic as Head of Biology. Liangsu Wang has spent last 12 years at Merck and worked on drug discovery programs in the areas of Infectious Diseases, Cardiovascular Diseases, and Diabetes & Endocrinology. In recent year, she served as Executive Director, Diabetes & NASH Late Discovery, and was accountable for the drug discovery portfolio across all stages, as well as discovery support of clinical development programs (Phase 1 to 3) spanning small molecules, peptides, and biologics. She was managing a team of ~30 scientists. She established and executed the scientific strategy for NASH discovery research at MRL. She led the team and built the NASH discovery platform including in vitro and ex vivo systems, and multiple animal models.

Over the years, Liangsu has been strong scientific and strategic driver for external innovations with proven track-record in establishing and leading collaborations with multiple partners in academia and industry. she also represented Merck externally in a variety of forums.

Prior to joining Merck in 2004, Liangsu spent four years with Elitra Pharmaceuticals, where she directed a multi-disciplinary team to prioritize and select antibiotic targets for internal drug discovery and external collaborations including three large collaborations. She also worked at Digital Gene Technologies, Inc. for three years at the early stage of her industrial career.

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TL1A and IL-23

Morphic is leveraging its structural biology expertise and medicinal chemistry capabilities to develop small molecule therapeutic candidates against non-integrin targets including TL1-A and IL-23. Inhibition of these pathways have potential as treatments for IBD through monotherapy and possibly in combination with other IBD treatment mechanisms including α4β7 inhibition.

α5β1

Morphic is developing small molecule inhibitors of the integrin α5β1 based on research demonstrating that fibronectin integrin inhibition suppresses pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cell proliferation. Potential indications include severe pulmonary hypertensive disease including pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Integrin Partnership: Janssen

Morphic entered a research partnership with Janssen in 2019 to discover inhibitors of undisclosed integrin targets. In 2021, this partnership was expanded to include an antibody activator of an integrin target, extending the application of Morphic’s knowledge of integrin biology into modalities beyond small molecules. The antibody activator program is the focus of our collaboration with Janssen today.

Undisclosed Targets

Morphic is leveraging the MInT Platform to discover therapeutically relevant small molecule inhibitors of targets across the integrin family to treat autoimmune diseases, cancer and fibrotic diseases.

Undisclosed Target for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

Morphic is deploying the MInT Platform to create small molecule inhibitors of an undisclosed integrin target for evaluation as a potential treatment for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). PAH is a devastating, usually fatal disease characterized by elevated mean pressures in the pulmonary artery and associated with lung and heart dysfunction. Morphic’s PAH program is in preclinical development.

αvβ8 (MORF-088)

Morphic is developing small molecule inhibitors of the integrin αvβ8 for potential uses in myelofibrosis and a combination immuno-oncology approach for the treatment of solid tumors. αvβ8 is known to activate selective isoforms of TGF-β and Morphic has demonstrated that αvβ8 inhibition can drive increased platelet production and potentiate immune checkpoint blockade and potentially drive responses in checkpoint refractory tumors. Morphic’s αvβ8 inhibitors are in preclinical development.

Next Gen α4β7 Inhibitors

Morphic is developing a family of next generation α4β7 small molecule inhibitors with enhanced attributes using the MInT Platform. These candidates have distinct chemical properties from our first-generation inhibitors with differentiated selectivity, potency, and pharmacokinetic profiles. Morphic’s next generation α4β7 inhibitors are currently in preclinical development.