A startup that is developing cancer drugs to target untapped cancer mutations has raised its second round of venture capital financing, a month after it was launched.
Black Diamond Therapeutics said Wednesday that it had raised $85 million in a Series B financing, led by RA Capital and New Enterprise Associates. Other firms participating included NexTech Invest, the Invus Group and Perceptive Advisors. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup was launched last month by Versant Ventures, with a Series A financing worth $20 million.
The company’s drug development platform is called mutation, allostery and pharmacology, or MAP. The idea is to target allosteric mutant oncogenes, which differ from the kinase mutations targeted by many small-molecule inhibitors. An allosteric mutation is one that occurs away from the site where an enzyme or receptor are active. According to the company, allosteric mutant oncogenes represent an unexplored space, and it plans to file Investigational New Drug applications with the Food and Drug Administration for drugs targeting allosteric HER2 and allosteric EGFR mutations at the end of this year and in the first half of next year, respectively.
In a phone interview last month that took place after the company’s launch, company executives noted that targeting allosteric mutant oncogenes was a distinct approach from allosteric inhibitor drugs, which despite the similar nomenclature, have different targets and mechanisms of action.
HER2 is a commonly expressed gene in breast cancer, while EGFR is often found in lung cancer and pancreatic cancer. There are currently a number of drugs – small-molecule kinase inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies – on the market that target both. Small-molecule HER2 inhibitors include Puma Biotechnology’s Nerlynx (neratinib) and Novartis’s Tykerb (lapatinib), while biologics to target it include Roche’s Herceptin (trastuzumab) and Perjeta (pertuzumab). For EGFR, small-molecule drugs include AstraZeneca’s Iressa (gefitinib) and Roche and Astellas Pharma’s Tarceva (erlotinib). A monoclonal antibody to target it is Eli Lilly & Co.’s Erbitux (cetuximab).
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