ApoGen Biotechnologies, a biotechnology firm engaged in the development of a new class of therapeutics targeting drivers of cancer genomic mutations, has expanded its series A financing to a total of $11m.
M Ventures, the strategic, corporate venture arm of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and existing investors provided an additional $4m in the company’s Series A.
Concurrent with the financing, Keno Gutierrez, PhD, MBA, an Investment Director at M Ventures, has joined the Board of Directors of ApoGen.
In December of 2016, Accelerator Life Science Partners (Accelerator) announced a $7 million Series A investment in ApoGen, with AbbVie Ventures, Alexandria Venture Investments, ARCH Venture Partners, Eli Lilly and Company, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc., Watson Fund, L.P., WRF Capital and WuXi AppTec’s Corporate Venture Fund participating in the financing.
“Drug resistance is a critical obstacle to achieving optimum outcomes for cancer patients, and new approaches to overcoming this resistance would create significant clinical and commercial value,” said Dr. Gutierrez.
“After careful diligence, we believe that ApoGen’s novel APOBEC technology has tremendous potential to enable a new class of drugs targeting the underlying mechanisms that give rise to drug resistance. We are pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the development of this exciting technology through our investment in this expanded Series A financing, which is consistent with our mission to drive therapeutic innovation.”
ApoGen is initially focusing its drug development efforts on an antiviral component of the human innate immune system, the APOBEC cytidine deaminases, which have been implicated as a prominent source of mutations in cancers. Mutations induced by APOBEC enzymes occur throughout the cancer genome, and ApoGen is targeting this process as a mechanism for inhibiting the development of resistance to cancer therapies.
The company intends to use the funding from the expanded Series A to hire additional staff and establish a laboratory in Seattle. This growth reflects and is consistent with ApoGen’s progress in its discovery and development activities around its APOBEC technology platform.
Accelerator Life Science Partners and ApoGen Biotechnologies CEO Thong Le said: “M Ventures has a demonstrated track record of success in identifying and supporting transformative healthcare technologies.
“The fund’s participation in this expanded Series A financing validates ApoGen’s leadership in innovating approaches to address the challenges of therapeutic drug resistance. We are pleased to welcome Keno to ApoGen’s board of directors and believe that his expertise in drug development and entrepreneurship will be an important asset to the company as it works to realize the value of its technology.”
ApoGen also announced the appointment of Stephen Gwaltney, PhD, as vice president, chemistry and Peter de Vries, PhD, as senior director of biology. Dr. Gwaltney has extensive expertise in medicinal chemistry and drug discovery/development. Prior to joining ApoGen, he was a founder of Chrysalis Therapeutics.
His previous experience includes serving as vice president, chemistry at Global Blood Therapeutics; director of chemistry at Takeda San Diego; and project leader for the DPP4 program at Syrrx, which resulted in the discovery of alogliptin, a drug now marketed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
He is an author on more than 75 publications and patents, was on the board of the San Diego Section of the American Chemical Society and served on the San Diego Research Committee of the American Diabetes Association.
Dr. de Vries was most recently strategic director at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and has more than 25 years of experience in discovery research and drug and business development in the biopharmaceutical industry.
His previous experience includes serving as director cancer biology and pharmacology at Cascadian Therapeutics; senior commercialization officer, vaccine development global program at PATH; and associate director biology at Acylin Therapeutics. He was instrumental in two successful IND applications for small molecule cancer drugs.
He is an author on more than 40 publications and a co-inventor of one patent. He was also principal and founder of Broadview Biotech Consulting and served as a new ventures mentor at the University of Washington Center for Commercialization.
“Stephen and Peter bring extensive bodies of knowledge in chemistry and biology, respectively, and demonstrated track records of success in innovating novel therapies for serious medical conditions,” added Mr. Le.
“Each of them will be a tremendous asset to ApoGen as the company advances its novel APOBEC technology, and we are excited to add their expertise to ApoGen’s leadership team.
Source: Company Press Release