SAN DIEGO, Sept. 27, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Fortis Therapeutics, Inc., a new immuno-oncology biotech, today announced the close of an $18 million Series A financing. The investment was led by Avalon Ventures and was joined by Bregua Corporation, Lilly Asia Ventures, Osage University Partners, and Vivo Capital. The company was founded on technology from Bin Liu, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Anesthesia at UC San Francisco, and is focused on developing new antibody drug conjugate therapies for late-stage metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer and multiple myeloma.
"Dr. Liu has identified a novel and unique target for an antibody drug conjugate therapy that could help patients with prostate cancer or multiple myeloma where other treatments have failed," said Jay Lichter, Ph.D., president and CEO of Fortis Therapeutics and COI Pharmaceuticals, managing director of Avalon Ventures. "We are pleased to be working with an enterprising and diverse syndicate of investors, who have shown a dedication to investing in innovative ideas for important unmet medical needs."
Fortis Therapeutics is developing new antibody drug conjugate (ADC) therapies that target a receptor that is over-expressed in late-stage prostate cancer including both the adenocarcinoma and neuroendocrine types. Furthermore, the genes encoding the target receptor are part of the chromosome amplification seen in a large number of multiple myeloma patients with poor prognosis. Different from the majority of other ADC targets, which are predominately lineage markers, the target Fortis is pursuing is part of the tumor immune defense shield and is highly expressed throughout tumor development. The target is further up-regulated following standard of care treatment with abiraterone or enzalutamide, which is used in combination with prednisone to treat metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer.
"We have found a target that is not only over-expressed in late-stage prostate cancer but is further up-regulated under selective pressures of androgen deprivation therapy," said Marc Nasoff, Ph.D., chief scientific officer of Fortis Therapeutics and COI Pharmaceuticals. "This target could provide a way to attack the ubiquitous problem of androgen therapy resistance in metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer."
In addition, Eric J. Small, M.D., was appointed to head Fortis' scientific advisory board. Dr. Small is a UCSF clinical professor of medicine and urology, and chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology in the Department of Medicine at UCSF. He is also deputy director of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.
"While therapies, like abiraterone and enzalutamide, which target the amplified androgen receptor have significantly improved the treatment of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer, the vast majority of patients will develop resistance to these therapies, leading to disease progression and eventually death," said Dr. Small. "We need therapeutic options after androgen receptor directed therapy that could substantially improve survival."
Dr. Small has contributed significant research to understanding advanced prostate cancer, including identifying the transitions from hormone-sensitive to treatment-resistant prostate cancer. He has been integral in the development of androgen receptor-directed therapies, risk assessment tools for patients with advanced prostate cancer, and immunotherapies for prostate cancer. Dr. Small has been directly involved in the development of two FDA-approved therapies for prostate cancer: sipuleucel-T and abiraterone.
The licensing deal between UCSF and Fortis Therapeutics was negotiated by UCSF's Office of Innovation, Technology & Alliances (ITA). The ITA coordinates UCSF's efforts in forging collaborations and licensing technologies that translate cutting-edge science on campus into therapies and products that directly benefit patients worldwide.
About Fortis Therapeutics
Fortis Therapeutics is an immuno-oncology biotech focused on developing new antibody drug conjugate therapies for late-stage multiple myeloma and late-stage prostate cancer. Fortis was founded based on technology exclusively licensed from UCSF and developed in the laboratory of Bin Liu, Ph.D. The company's investors are Avalon Ventures, Bregua Corporation, Lilly Asia Ventures, Osage University Partners, and Vivo Capital. Fortis Therapeutics is located in COI Pharmaceuticals, Avalon's Community of Innovation, in San Diego. For more information, please visit http://www.coipharma.com/portfolio/.
The information stated above was prepared by Fortis Therapeutics and reflects solely the opinion of the corporation. Nothing in this statement shall be construed to imply any support or endorsement of Fortis, or any of its products, by The Regents of the University of California, its officers, agents and employees.