After inking two major deals with Big Pharmas tackling the increasingly hot path of protein degradation earlier this year, Yale spinout Arvinas has scored a $55 million round of funding to take two of its cancer programs through the clinic.
The cash came in a Series C round led by oncology-focused fund Nextech Invest, which is new to Arvinas’ lineup of financial backers. Other new investors Deerfield Management, Hillhouse Capital and Sirona Capital joined the round, along with a slew of repeats.
Arvinas is a bit of a pioneer in a new modality called protein degradation, an area picking up steam in the industry. The scientific concept is simple enough. Where protein inhibition has led to some advanced medicines, degrading proteins could prove a much more durable solution.
Specifically, Arvinas plans to tag certain disease-causing proteins for destruction by recruiting an E3 ligase to the target, thereby sending the protein to the cell’s natural “garbage disposal” called the ubiquitin-proteasome system.
Arvinas’ CEO John Houston tells me the platform, in theory, could be widely applicable to several diseases.
“We’re not limited by disease area, as almost any disease with a cell you want to degrade could be targeted,” Houston said.
Houston says Arvinas was the first to take the concept beyond academia, but the science has since gained popularity, with companies like C4 Therapeutics and Kymera jumping on board. Even major pharmas like Celgene, Takeda, GSK and Novartis have efforts in the space.
In January, Arvinas scored a discovery deal with Pfizer to hunt for a slate of small molecules that can degrade proteins. Although the companies were sparse on details of the deal (including upfront payment amounts and targets), we do know the overall packet of milestones adds up to $830 million for unbridled success.
Arvinas has signed two other major alliances with marquee pharmas, inking deals with Genentech and Merck earlier. And Genentech came back last November to double down on that relationship, pushing the milestones up to $650 million.
This new round of investment capital will take Arvinas’ newly appointed programs — which target the androgen and estrogen receptors for prostate and breast cancers — through the clinic, the company said.
“This past year has been exciting for us with two clinical candidate nominations, the expansion of our collaboration with Genentech and the announcement of a new collaboration with Pfizer,” Houston said. “With this additional financial support from existing and new investors who believe in our innovative protein degradation platform, we will continue executing on our strategy of progressing our lead programs to the clinic, expanding the use of the platform outside of oncology, and tackling undruggable targets.”
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