The Belgian biotech iTeos is finding out just how generous investors can be when it comes to backing a new drug that might play a key assist with the first-generation of immuno-oncology drugs on the market. The group has hauled in a $75 million round designed to get its lead drug — an adenosine A2A antagonist — into the clinic later this year.
The money will also fund a move into Cambridge, MA as the biotech builds out its top team in the US in preparation for an IPO at some point.
Adenosine is believed to play an active role in blunting an attack by immune cells, binding to their A2A receptors. There’s also an anti-TIGIT antibody bound for human trials next year.
The biotech is not playing solo here. Corvus Pharmaceuticals $CRVS has a rival drug already in the clinic, but iTeos CEO is quick to brush it away, saying that “we have shown our compound is better.”
The company has had its setbacks, though. Early this year Pfizer wrote off the $29 million upfront it paid the biotech to partner on its IDO1 drug. At the time, the company was planning to carry on alone, certain it could work even after Pfizer failed to find enough activity to make it worth their while. Now it’s gone from the pipeline, swept away as the entire IDO field collapses in the wake of a terminal failure at Incyte.
MPM Capital led this round with some new investors: HBM Partners, 6 Dimensions Capital — an active China investor formed from the merger of Frontline BioVentures and WuXi Healthcare Ventures — and Curative Ventures.
“We got attracted to the company because it has a top scientific team,” says MPM’s Ansbert Gadicke. The biotech is a spinout from Ludwig Cancer Research and the de Duve Institute. And it’s getting better, with plans to add a CSO soon for their new US base.
“In Cambridge we can build a top biotech in walking distance,” says Gadicke. “We want to get the best of the two worlds.”
And that will be important to the investors they would like to woo as they prep for an eventual listing on Nasdaq.
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