Venture

Pfizer, Novartis jump into an $84M development round for UK cancer drug stars at Artios

Cancer hasn’t lost its sizzle for biotech investors.

Niall Martin

VCs at Pfizer and Novartis have jumped into an $84 million round for Artios, a Cambridge, UK-based biotech with an executive crew that played key roles in discovering and developing AstraZeneca’s PARP star Lynparza.

Graeme Smith

Lynparza got the first-mover advantage in PARP — and a blockbuster commercialization pact with Merck — after AstraZeneca picked it up in the $210 million KuDOS buyout, where Artios CEO Niall Martin and CSO Graeme Smith had played an important part in working on DNA repair pathways. Just as Lynparza works by disrupting the DNA damage response — DDR — systems that allow cancer cells to adapt and survive, Martin and Smith have returned to the field to develop a new pipeline of therapies that can go PARP one better.

That could work as a monotherapy, or in combination, which is exactly where the cancer drug development field is headed.

Kate Bingham

That profile, at a time oncology remains a hot field for investors, attracted quite the high-profile investment crowd. Kate Bingham at SV Life Sciences took a big part in drawing together the original syndicate for the $33 million launch round, which also included Merck Ventures, Imperial Innovations, Arix Bioscience PLC, CRT Pioneer Fund (managed by Sixth Element Capital), and AbbVie Ventures.

Now Raphael Wisniewski at Andera Partners — the newly dubbed, Paris-based biotech investment crew out of the Edmond de Rothschild Group — is leading the new round, which also adds Pfizer Ventures and Novartis Venture Fund to the group.

Raphaël Wisniewski

The fresh cash injection offers some added proof that UK biotechs that have a good story to tell can raise substantial sums for their startup work. The boom we’ve been seeing in the US and China is lifting new companies in Europe as well.

Noted Martin, who also worked on ubiquitin pathways at Mission Therapeutics:

This investor syndicate creates a very strong and committed shareholder base with a track record of supporting successful next generation companies.


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