Aura Biosciences, a Cambridge, Mass.-based leader in the development of novel targeted therapies in ocular oncology, closed a $40m Series D financing.
The round was led by new investor Medicxi, with participation from current investors. In conjunction with the closing of the financing, Giovanni Mariggi, Ph.D., a Partner at Medicxi, will join Aura’s Board of Directors.
The company plans to use the funds for the late stage clinical development of their lead asset, light-activated AU-011, for the treatment of primary choroidal melanoma.
Led by Elisabet de los Pinos, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, Aura Biosciences is developing a new class of therapies to selectively target and destroy cancer cells. Its lead program, AU-011 in primary choroidal melanoma, is being developed under a CRADA with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health.
AU-011 is a first-in-class targeted therapy in development for the primary treatment of choroidal melanoma. The therapy consists of proprietary viral-like particle bioconjugates (VPB) that are activated with an ophthalmic laser. The VPBs bind selectively to unique receptors on cancer cells in the eye and are derived from technology originally pioneered by Dr. John Schiller of the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), recipient of the 2017 Lasker-DeBakey Award. Upon activation with an ophthalmic laser, the VPB rapidly and specifically disrupts the cell membrane of tumor cells while sparing key eye structures, which may allow for the potential of preserving patients’ vision and reducing other long-term complications of radiation treatment. AU-011 can be delivered using equipment commonly found in an ophthalmologist’s office and does not require a surgical procedure, pointing to a potentially less invasive, more convenient therapy for patients and physicians. AU-011 for the treatment of choroidal melanoma has been granted orphan drug and fast track designations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is currently in clinical development.