SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., Dec. 2, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- ORIC Pharmaceuticals, a cancer therapy company focused on the discovery and development of small-molecule drugs that target treatment-resistant cancers, announced a $53 million Series B financing. The funds will be used to support advancement of the company's first drug candidate into initial clinical trials and to further develop the company's pipeline.
The funding round included participation from leading biotechnology and other investors: The Column Group, Topspin Partners, OrbiMed Advisors, EcoR1 Capital, Foresite Capital and Kravis Investment Partners. The Column Group helped found ORIC in November 2014 and together with Kravis Investment Partners participated in the company's Series A financing round.
"We are pleased to have the support of such a distinguished group of biotechnology investors, who share our excitement about the opportunity to solve the pervasive problem of cancer-treatment resistance," said Richard Heyman, Ph.D., interim chief executive officer and board member of ORIC Pharmaceuticals. "With our world-class co-founders and leadership team, robust discovery platform and focus, we believe we are uniquely qualified to tackle this challenge and develop next-generation therapies that will help people with cancer live longer."
Despite significant advances in cancer treatment over the past 20 years, response to treatment is often short-lived as patients' tumors adapt and develop resistance to targeted treatments. Now, new technology breakthroughs are yielding rich information that is enabling scientists to understand the molecular mechanisms of resistance to cancer treatment. These mechanisms can then be targeted for drug development.
ORIC was founded by two world-class oncology experts, Charles Sawyers, M.D., and Scott Lowe, Ph.D., who are on the faculty at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Drs. Sawyers and Lowe have been involved with groundbreaking work in cancer-treatment resistance which resulted in the discovery and development of several novel therapeutics. Dr. Sawyers was instrumental in the discovery and development of leading drugs including imatinib for chronic myelogenous leukemia and enzalutamide and ARN-509 for castration-resistant prostate cancer. Dr. Lowe identified BRD4 as a therapeutic target in acute myeloid leukemia, with drugs for this target currently in clinical trials. In addition to these academic co-founders, Valeria Fantin, Ph.D., recently joined ORIC as the company's chief scientific officer (CSO). Dr. Fantin is a biopharmaceutical executive with deep expertise in oncology drug discovery and development.
ORIC is working collaboratively with its renowned scientific co-founders and advisors to gain new clinical understanding about tumor resistance mechanisms at the molecular level, which the company will replicate using unique laboratory-based models in order to identify actionable drug targets with a clear development pathway. The company is initially focusing on drugs targeting resistance mechanisms associated with androgen receptor (AR) therapies in advanced (i.e., castration-resistant) prostate cancer.
An estimated 27,000 men will die of prostate cancer in 2015, according to the American Cancer Society, primarily due to development of resistance to therapy. The castration-resistant prostate cancer therapeutics market is expected to reach $9.5 billion globally by 2020, according to Allied Market Research. ORIC's first drug candidate will focus on the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) as a target for AR resistance. Research has shown that the GR may replace the AR to drive prostate cancer growth and metastasis in settings of androgen deprivation.
"Treatment-resistant cancer is an area of tremendous unmet clinical need. We are confident that the internal and external expertise we have cultivated – in addition to the systematic scientific approach we are employing - will enable ORIC to unlock key mechanisms of resistance and develop next-generation therapies that transform cancer treatment," said Dr. Fantin, ORIC's CSO.
"The Column Group worked with Dr. Sawyers and Dr. Heyman at Aragon Pharmaceuticals and Seragon Pharmaceuticals, and we have tremendous confidence in their ability, as well as that of the ORIC team, to translate deep clinical insights into actionable targets for drug discovery and development," said Peter Svennilson, founder and managing partner of The Column Group, and ORIC Pharmaceuticals Board chairman. "We are particularly excited about ORIC's GR program for prostate cancer."
Dr. Heyman was previously co-founder and CEO of Aragon Pharmaceuticals, which developed ARN-509 to treat prostate cancer and was acquired by Johnson & Johnson. He subsequently became CEO of Seragon Pharmaceuticals, a company focused on the development of drugs targeting hormone-dependent breast cancer, which was acquired by the Roche Group. In addition to Mr. Svennilson and Dr. Heyman, ORIC's board members are Laurence Lasky, Ph.D., partner at The Column Group, and Richard Scheller, Ph.D., chief scientific officer and head of therapeutic development at 23andMe and former executive vice president of Research and Early Development at Genentech. With the Series B financing, Carl L. Gordon, Ph.D., of OrbiMed and Leo A. Guthart. Ph.D., of Topspin will also join ORIC's board.
About ORIC Pharmaceuticals
ORIC Pharmaceuticals is a privately-held cancer therapy company focused on the discovery and development of small-molecule drugs that target treatment-resistant cancers, beginning with advanced prostate cancer. ORIC is leveraging its deep clinical understanding of the molecular mechanisms of cancer-treatment resistance, with its robust discovery platform, to develop new lines of therapies that will overcome resistance in cancer. The company brings together distinguished scientific founders, a leadership team and Board comprised of seasoned drug developers with proven track records, to solve the pervasive problem of resistance to cancer treatment. The company launched in 2014 and is funded by leading biotechnology investors, including The Column Group, Topspin Partners, OrbiMed Advisors, EcoR1 Capital, Foresite Capital and Kravis Investment Partners. ORIC is headquartered in South San Francisco, Calif. For more information, please visit www.oricpharma.com.
SOURCE ORIC Pharmaceuticals