Cancer Research UK spinoff raises $41M+ in Series B injection
The estrogen receptor (ER) — which is inhibited by targeted drugs such as the hormone therapy tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors — is a transcription factor implicated in 75% of breast cancers. Research from Cambridge University suggests that the DNA interactions and transcriptional scope of ER rely on a protein that plays a key role in determining tumor growth and progression — even when resistance to existing drugs has built up.
Azeria Therapeutics — a company founded by Jason Carroll from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute at the University of Cambridge who spearheaded the research — has now enticed Syncona and about $41.4 million in funding to develop therapies for drug-resistant breast cancer.
The company, which was spun out of Sixth Element Capital and Cancer Research UK’s commercial partnerships team in 2017, is laser-focused on pioneer factors — the proteins that dictate where in the genome transcription factors associate with DNA and what genes are regulated.
Its lead program is targeting the pioneer factor FOXA1, which has shown to be instrumental in the tumor development and maintenance of ER-positive luminal breast cancer (typically 30% of these patients progress to late-stage endocrine-resistant disease). FOXA1 is requisite in all ER-DNA interactions and in the absence of FOXA1, ER does not liaise with DNA, switch genes on or cause cells to grow. Significantly, FOXA1 is also essential for cells that have grown resistant to standard therapies, such as tamoxifen, Carroll’s research suggests.
The funding will help Azeria shepherd the experimental therapy into the clinic and help the company expand its arsenal of investigational drugs.
The Cambridge, UK-based drug developer previously raised £5.5 million in a Series A financing from the CRT Pioneer Fund, which is managed by UK based fund manager Sixth Element Capital.
This fresh injection of £32 million in Series B financing was led by Syncona, which made a hefty £29.5 million commitment.