Cyteir Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Mass.-based leader in the discovery and development of novel therapeutics based on the biology of DNA repair and synthetic lethality for the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases, closed a $29m Series B financing.
The round was led by Venrock with participation from returning investors Celgene, and new investors Lightstone Ventures and DROIA Oncology Ventures. As part of the financing, Racquel Bracken, vice president at Venrock, Jean George, general partner at Lightstone, and Bart Van Hooland, managing partner at DROIA, joined the Cyteir Board of Directors. Maria Palmisano, M.D., of Celgene joined as a board observer.
The company will use the funds to progress its lead program focused on selective, small-molecule inhibitors of the protein RAD51 for use in oncology, with the goal of entering initial clinical trials in 2019. Proceeds will also be used to accelerate preclinical development of synthetic lethality therapeutics for autoimmune diseases.
Led by newly appointed president and chief executive officer Markus Renschler, M.D., and co-founder and CSO Kevin Mills, Ph.D., Cyteir Therapeutics is targeting diseases with a gain-of-function in AID. Abnormal gain of AID function occurs in a wide range of cancer cells and autoimmune diseases, but not in healthy tissues. The advantages of this gain-of-function approach include potentially broader applicability, reduced side effects, and simpler, sensitive companion diagnostics for patient selection.
In order for RAD51 to repair AID-induced DNA damage, it must be transported from the cytoplasm of the cell into the nucleus. Once in the nucleus, RAD51 repairs the DNA damage caused by AID, and thereby protects diseased cells and tissues from death. Following DNA repair, RAD51 is transported back to the cytoplasm, where it is stored for future use.