Immuno-oncology, Venture

Constellation joins the mega-round club with $100M raise and plans to pursue cancer studies

After keeping a fairly low profile for the past few years, Constellation Pharmaceuticals is stepping into the spotlight this morning, joining the megaround club in biotech with a broadened syndicate of crossover investors that fits the profile for companies grooming themselves for an IPO.

Adding in a $48 million round the company brought in at the end of 2016 — but didn’t spotlight — along with a $100 million round today, CEO Jigar Raythatha tells me that the company has now raised a total of $280 million since launching 10 years ago. And the story the company is telling now centers considerably on a pair of early-stage cancer studies.

The biotech started a Phase Ib/II study of CPI-1205, an EZH2 inhibitor combined with Yervoy, that they hope will highlight their potential in epigenetics, dialing down gene expression in cancer pathways to enhance immuno-oncology drugs that have become all the rage these days.  The same drug is also in an early study to see if it can boost the effectiveness of Zytiga and Xtandi in prostate cancer. And their BET drug is looking for proof-of-concept data for myelofibrosis.

Keith Dionne

Raythatha stepped in to take the helm of the Third Rock startup a year ago after a stint on the BD side of things at Jounce. He took the place of Keith Dionne, who went to Third Rock as an entrepreneur-in-residence incubating new biotechs not long after Genentech dropped a buyout option.

The new CEO says there are no “firm plans” for going public, something that the previous team discussed several years ago, but the syndicate that has now pumped in $100 million for the 10-year-old company brings along the kind of financial muscle needed to boost a company up to the public stage.

New investors include Cormorant Asset Management, Deerfield Management, Fidelity Management and Research Company, Hillhouse Capital, NS Investment, OrbiMed, Sirona Capital, and Venrock Healthcare Partners. Current investors: The Column Group, Third Rock Ventures, Venrock, SROne, University of California Investment Office, Topspin Partners, and Casdin Capital.

Polishing their I/O credentials also fits the picture of a biotech looking to go public. And Constellation has been a long time making clinical plans.

“As you embark on various business ventures there are twists and turns, and certainly we’ve had out share,” the CEO tells me. When he came on board in early 2017, he adds, there was some need to think through the biotech’s strategic positioning, and reorganize the team running the company. Now he says he has plenty of time to think through things like an IPO.

What kind of an operating runway does $100 million get you these days?

Raythatha isn’t saying. 

A decade in at Constellation, you still just get a peek at what’s going on behind the big curtain.


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