ApoGen Biotechnologies, Inc., a Seattle, WA-based biotechnology company focused on the development of a new class of therapeutics targeting drivers of cancer genomic mutation, raised $7m in Series A financing.
Backers included Accelerator Corporation, 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 PharmaTech.
The company intends to use the funds to develop highly selective and potent small molecule inhibitors that aim to slow or stop cancer mutation and the development of drug resistance as well as companion diagnostics to identify the patients likely to get the most benefit from these therapies.
ApoGen Biotechnologies leverages technologies developed at the University of Minnesota to advance a new class of drugs that target the underlying mechanisms that cause genomic mutations to interrupt the development of drug resistance by cancer cells.
The company will initially focus 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. By targeting this mechanism, ApoGen hopes to interrupt a cancer cell’s ability to develop drug therapy resistance.
The company’s founders include:
– Reuben S. Harris, Ph.D., investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI); professor of biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics at the U of M; associate director of the U of M’s Institute for Molecular Virology
– Daniel A. Harki, Ph.D., associate professor of medicinal chemistry at the U of M
– John T. Santini, Jr., Ph.D., president and CEO of Vergent Bioscience, a protease-focused biotech company located in Minneapolis, Minn.; co-founder of MicroCHIPS, Inc.; former CEO of four life science companies. Dr. Santini will serve as a member of ApoGen’s board of directors.
The scientific advisory board is comprised of:
– José Baselga, M.D., Ph.D., physician-in-chief at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC); professor of medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College
– Peter B. Dervan, Ph.D., Bren Professor of Chemistry at California Institute of Technology
– Charles Swanton, M.D., Ph.D., senior clinical research fellow and group leader, Translational Cancer Therapeutics, Francis Crick Institute; chief investigator, CRUK TRACERx study; co-director, CRUK Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence and Thoracic Medical Oncologist at UCL Hospitals
– Douglas Yee, M.D., director, Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota; professor, departments of Medicine and Pharmacology, University of Minnesota