SAN DIEGO, Dec. 3, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Enlibrium announced today that it has raised $15 million in a Series A financing co-led by Avalon Ventures and TPG Biotech, with participation from Correlation Ventures and Osage University Partners. Enlibrium is developing novel drugs based on the anti-cancer activity of metformin and designed to reduce cancer energy production to treat a range of cancer types. The financing is expected to provide sufficient capital to advance Enlibrium's lead compounds through Phase 1 clinical trials.
"Reducing the ability of cancer cells to fuel their unchecked growth targets a fundamental mechanism of the disease and represents a therapeutic approach with potential to work against multiple cancer types," said Jay Lichter, Ph.D., Partner at Avalon Ventures and President and CEO of COI Pharmaceuticals.
Cancer's rapid, uncontrolled growth requires an excessive amount of energy, which makes cancer cells particularly sensitive to drugs that reduce energy production. In a number of clinical studies over the past decade, metformin, currently the most widely-prescribed drug for type 2 diabetes, has demonstrated evidence of anti-cancer activity. Researchers have reported that metformin is able to reduce energy consumption by cancer cells; however, this activity appears to be limited to a small number of cancers that express specific transporters that enable metformin to enter the cell. Cancers that do not express these transporters are not directly affected by metformin.
"Our founding scientists, Drs. Michael Jung and Richard Pietras, recognized that this limited the opportunity to use metformin in the majority of cancer settings and precluded its suitability as an oncology drug, so they designed a series of compounds that overcame these limitations," said David Campbell, Ph.D., President and CEO of Enlibrium. "In pre-clinical studies, these compounds have exhibited broad anti-cancer activities far exceeding those observed with metformin, while maintaining metformin's outstanding safety profile."
The technology has been exclusively licensed from UCLA and was developed in the laboratories of Michael Jung, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry and Richard Pietras, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology-Oncology and Director, Stiles Program in Integrative Oncology in the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Jung also contributed to development of prostate cancer drugs Xtandi from Astellas and Medivation and ARN-509 from Aragon Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Johnson & Johnson).
"Enlibrium has combined a strong syndicate of investors, including experienced scientific founders that have taken important cancer drugs to the clinic, and proprietary compounds based upon a decade of clinical anti-cancer research with metformin," said Heather Preston, M.D., Partner and Managing Director, TPG Biotech. "We look forward to the advancement of new therapeutic drug candidates to take away cancer's fuel and put the brakes on this deadly disease."
In conjunction with the financing, Drs. Lichter and Preston will join Enlibrium's board of directors. Enlibrium will be housed within Avalon Ventures' COI Pharmaceuticals, the Community Of Innovation established by Avalon Ventures to support its biotech portfolio companies. COI Pharma provides new companies with operational support and a fully-equipped R&D facility, as well as mentoring and advice from an experienced leadership team.
Enlibrium is developing novel drugs based on metformin to treat a range of different cancers by reducing cancer energy consumption and reestablishing energy balance. Given their high growth rate and energy requirements, cancers are particularly sensitive to agents that reduce their energy production. Enlibrium was founded based on technology exclusively licensed from UCLA and developed in laboratories headed by Michael Jung, Ph.D. and Richard Pietras, M.D., Ph.D. Enlibrium's investors are Avalon Ventures, TPG Biotech, Correlation Ventures and Osage University Partners. Enlibrium is located in COI Pharmaceuticals, Avalon's Community of Innovation, in San Diego.