Multi-million pound deal for new Dundee spinout

Published on 24 April 2024

A University of Dundee spinout has announced a multi-million pound deal to develop first-in-class therapeutics that restore the body's natural disease suppression processes.

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Outrun Therapeutics is developing medicines that stabilise proteins such as tumour suppressors and neuron survival factors, enabling the potential treatment of cancer and neurological disorders.

Our cells contain hundreds of enzymes termed E3 ligases, whose job is to degrade unwanted or deleterious proteins. Outrun is developing drugs that block the activity of these enzymes whose activity often goes awry in disease. The company has launched with an £8m Seed investment, led by M Ventures and MP Healthcare Venture Management.

Outrun’s scientific founder, Professor Satpal Virdee, based at the University’s Medical Research Council Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit, is an internationally renowned expert in the field of E3 ligases and developed the technology Outrun is leveraging to accelerate the drug discovery process. 

He said, “Therapeutic modulation of E3 ligase activity is an exciting strategy for treating a range of diseases such as cancer and neurodegeneration. The potential is huge, and Outrun is well-placed to be a leader in this space.”

“Fantastic support from the university, including that from the Drug Discovery Unit, was key to securing the investment.”

Outrun’s CEO Carolyn Porter said, “Protein stabilisation is the mirror image of protein degradation and seeks to maintain the levels of critical proteins that are otherwise unbalanced in certain diseases, disrupting the body’s highly sophisticated natural disease suppression processes. We are bringing our world class knowledge of E3 ligase biology and protein-to-protein interactions, combined with our proprietary discovery platform, to unlock the potential of this exciting new therapeutic area.”

Outrun has developed a proprietary, high throughput platform which reduces the discovery time for E3 ligase inhibitors, improving specificity and target binding. Furthermore, the platform uses engineered protein sensor technology (EPS), pioneered by the Virdee lab, to uncover the detailed biochemistry of E3 ligases, enabling discovery of drugs with potentially superior binding, specificity, and activity. Outrun’s approach is a scalable and modular strategy for developing next-generation small molecule drugs targeting E3 ligases, particularly inhibitors that stabilise proteins. 

Notes to editors

About Outrun Therapeutics

Outrun Therapeutics is unlocking the therapeutic potential of protein stabilisation by E3 ligase inhibition to maintain levels of critical proteins that are otherwise destabilised in certain diseases, disrupting the body’s highly sophisticated natural disease suppression processes. Blocking E3 ligase activity enables protein stabilisation “at source” compared to other approaches, being directly part of the tagging mechanism involved in healthy cellular processing of destabilised unwanted or mis-formed proteins. Protein stabilisation could be applicable to a wide range of indications, including oncology and neurology.

Despite the very high interest in E3 ligases as a therapeutic target, they have been challenging to drug. This is a roadblock that Outrun is addressing through its world class knowledge of E3 ligase biology and its proprietary discovery platform, which simplifies and dramatically scales the assessment of E3 ligase targets, thereby significantly reducing discovery time. Furthermore, the platform’s elegant engineered protein sensor (EPS) screen is enabling Outrun to build a pipeline of highly valuable, small molecule, first-in-class, E3 ligase inhibitors to prevent protein degradation, as well as identify novel E3 ligase targets involved in a range of diseases. 

Outrun’s lead programme is a small molecule inhibitor targeting an E3 ligase that destabilises a tumour suppressor protein in hard-to-treat solid tumours. 

Spun out of founder Prof. Satpal Virdee’s lab at the world-renowned MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit at the University of Dundee, Outrun is led by a seasoned management team with a strong track record in creating robust biopharma businesses. It is backed by M Ventures and MP Healthcare Venture Management.


Jonathan Watson

Senior Press Officer

+44 (0)1382 381489