Last week Eli Lilly showed their faith in NextCure by fronting an immuno-oncology collaboration with $40 million in upfront and equity cash. This week the biotech is coming out with a $93 million raise to help illustrate how trendy I/O remains in venture circles — especially if you promise to break some new ground in the field.
Experts in exploring the surface of cells in the development of new cancer therapies, their lead drug is in preclinical development. NC318 targets S15, which the company believes helps myeloid cells survive and thrive, while tapping down on the T cell responses that are now being driven by a host of drugs in the clinic.
“Things have changed,” says CEO Michael Richman. “There’s a little I/O fatigue.”
NextCure, though, isn’t another PD-1/L1 play. They plan to go into novel areas, which NextCure sees as the true next-gen approach to immuno-oncology.
“Our goal from the beginning: What about the non responders?” he adds.
Their scientific founder is Lieping Chen, a cancer research professor at Yale. The professor was also a scientific founder at Amplimmune, which Richman and some of his colleagues ran before selling the company to AstraZeneca 5 years ago.
An expert in immunology, Chen brings some broad talents in the field, giving Beltsville, MD-based NextCure a shot at developing a much broader pipeline that extends into autoimmune diseases and anti-inflammatory conditions — with implications for CNS ailments.
Another element that sets the company apart, says the CEO, is that NextCure has its own GMP manufacturing facility for the drugs it is testing. And that gives them control of the entire pre-IND package.
That’s the kind of profile that can drive plenty of support, especially as new Chinese investors go deeper and deeper into the US scene.
Hillhouse Capital Management and Quan Capital led the round, which included Bay City Capital, Surveyor Capital (a Citadel company), Ping An Ventures, Taiho Ventures, ArrowMark Partners and NS Investment. All existing investors also participated in this financing, including Canaan Partners, Lilly Asia Ventures, OrbiMed Advisors, Pfizer, Sofinnova Ventures and Alexandria Venture Investments. The raise also includes $15 million Eli Lilly committed when it signed up for the partnership last week.
Michael Yi from Hillhouse Capital Management and Stella Xu out of Quan Capital will join the board of directors.
Added all together, NextCure has raised more than $180 million in 2 years.
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