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Pharma Startup, Syros Pharmaceuticals Gets $30 Million for Genetic Cancer Treatments



4/12/2013 6:51:20 AM

WATERTOWN, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Syros Pharmaceuticals, a newly launched company harnessing breakthroughs in gene control to revolutionize the treatment of cancer and other diseases, today announced that it has completed a $30 million Series A financing led by company Co-founders ARCH Venture Partners and Flagship Ventures. Syros will use the capital to accelerate the discovery and development of novel gene control medicines. The journal Cell today published two manuscripts1 from Syros Scientific Co-founders based upon the discovery of gene control regulators called Super-Enhancers.

Syros Pharmaceuticals was co-founded by ARCH Venture Partners and Flagship’s VentureLabs unit working with three world leaders within the field of gene regulation and translational medicine: Richard A. Young, Ph.D., Whitehead Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; James “Jay” E. Bradner, M.D., Harvard Medical School, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Broad Institute; and Nathanael Gray, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Other investors include the WuXi PharmaTech Corporate Venture Fund, and undisclosed private investors.

"It is increasingly clear that much of human diseases lies in the switches that control genes rather than the genes themselves," said Dr. Young. "We now can map the regulatory circuits in all human cells, including the critical switches in cancer and other diseases. This offers a promising new way to treat disease.”

Industry veteran Nancy Simonian, M.D. will lead the company as Chief Executive Officer. She has a proven track record of value creation in biotechnology, most recently as Chief Medical Officer at Millennium Pharmaceuticals and, previously, as Vice President of Clinical Development at Biogen. Nancy led efforts that revolutionized treatments for patients with multiple sclerosis, multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma. At Millennium and Biogen, Nancy oversaw all phases of drug development, including more than 15 INDs, NDAs/BLAs for Velcade and Avonex, and medical affairs. Syros management also includes Scott Rakestraw, Ph.D., Chief Business Officer; Gregg Beloff, J.D., Chief Financial Officer; Christian Fritz, Ph.D., Vice President, Biology; and, Kevin Sprott, Ph.D., Senior Director, Chemistry.

“Discovery of the switches for genes critical in disease opens a completely new approach to helping people with serious illnesses such as cancer,” said Dr. Simonian. “We are thrilled to have Drs. Young, Bradner and Gray as our outstanding scientific founders and together will translate these breakthroughs in gene control into transformative treatments for patients.”

Syros Signs Exclusive Technology Licensing Agreements

Syros has executed exclusive, worldwide licensing agreements with the Whitehead Institute and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Licenses cover Syros’ lead scientific platform components, including Super-Enhancer technologies and methods.

Syros Names Board of Directors, Scientific Advisory Board

Drs. Simonian, Young and Bradner are joined on the Syros Board of Directors by Nobel Prize Winner Phillip Sharp, Ph.D., a world leader of research in molecular biology and biochemistry and Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Douglas Cole, M.D., General Partner of Flagship Ventures, and Robert Nelsen, Co-founder and Managing Director of ARCH Venture Partners. The company is also supported by a Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) comprising world-renowned experts within the fields of oncology, gene control, chemistry, and drug discovery. In addition to the three Scientific Founders of the company, SAB Members include: Bradley Bernstein, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Harvard Medical School, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Broad Institute; Scott Biller, Ph.D., Agios Pharmaceuticals; Gerard Evan, Ph.D., FRS, FMedSci, University of Cambridge, European Molecular Biology, UK Academy of Medical Sciences, Royal Society; William Kaelin, M.D., Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Cancer Center, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Stefan Knapp, Ph.D., Target Discovery Institute, Structural Genomics Consortium, University of Oxford; Mark Murcko, Ph.D., Former CTO, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Northeastern Lecturer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Aviv Regev, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Broad Institute, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Klarman Cell Observatory; Phillip Sharp, Ph.D., Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Roger Tung, Ph.D., Concert Pharmaceuticals; Chris Vakoc, M.D., Ph.D., Cold Spring Harbor Lab; and Bob Weinberg, Ph.D., Whitehead Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT Ludwig Center for Molecular Oncology.

Syros’s founding investors have been involved in establishing and building leading biopharmaceutical companies, such as Agios Pharmaceuticals, Receptos, Quanterix, ModeRNA, Aveo, Tetraphase, Avedro, Selecta Bioscience, Illumina, Aviron, Alnylam, Ikaria, Adolor, Caliper Life Sciences, Kythera, Xenoport, Array Biosciences, decode Genetics, and others

“Occasionally, truly breakthrough biology has the potential for near-term and direct impact on therapeutics,” said Dr. Cole. “Syros Pharmaceuticals has a rare opportunity to establish entirely new strategies to treat cancer and other serious diseases based on the revolutionary insights emerging from the scientific founders’ labs. It has been a privilege to work with our co-founders to launch this exciting venture.”

“Syros brings together an exceptionally experienced management team, once-in-a-decade breakthrough science, some of the best scientific and drug discovery minds in the business, and the resources to move fast,” said Mr. Nelsen.

About Syros Pharmaceuticals

Syros Pharmaceuticals is a life sciences company harnessing breakthroughs in gene control to revolutionize the treatment of cancer and other diseases. Syros’ proprietary platform identifies the master switches for disease genes, opening a whole new approach to novel therapeutics. Syros’ initial focus is in cancer, but the company platform will also be applicable to other therapeutic areas. The Company’s founders are pioneers in gene control research and translation. Co-founded and backed by Flagship Ventures and ARCH Venture Partners, Syros Pharmaceuticals is located in Watertown, MA. For more information, visit www.syros.com.

About ARCH Venture Partners

ARCH Venture Partners is a premier provider of seed- and early-stage capital for technology firms, with a special competence in co-founding and building technology firms from startup. ARCH invests primarily in companies co-founded with leading scientists and entrepreneurs, concentrating in innovations in life sciences, physical sciences, and information technology. ARCH enjoys special recognition as a leader in the successful commercialization of technologies developed at academic research institutions and national laboratories. The company manages seven funds totaling over $1.5 billion and has invested in the earliest venture capital rounds for more than 150 companies over 27 years. Portfolio companies where ARCH was a co-founding or early investor include Illumina, Aviron, Agios, Impinj, Xenoport, Alnylam, Ikaria, Kythera, Sapphire Energy, Microoptical Devices, New Era of Networks, Netbot, Trubion Pharmaceuticals, Adolor, Nanosys, Receptos, Caliper Life Sciences, Ahura, Xtera, Array Biopharma, Everyday Learning Corporation, Nanophase Technologies, R2 Technologies, and deCode Genetics, among others. More information is available at www.archventure.com.

About Flagship Ventures

Realizing entrepreneurial innovation is the mission of Flagship Ventures. The firm operates through two synergistic units: VentureLabsTM, which invents and launches transformative companies, and Venture Capital, which finances and realizes innovative early-stage companies. Founded in 2000 and based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Flagship Ventures manages over $900 million in capital. The Flagship team innovates and invests in three principal business sectors: therapeutics, health technologies and sustainability/clean technology. Past successful Flagship portfolio companies include: Accuri Cytometers (acquired by Becton, Dickinson and Company), Adnexus (acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb), Hypnion (acquired by Eli Lilly), AVEO (AVEO), BG Medicine (BGMD), Tetraphase (TTPH), and Morphotek (acquired by Eisai). Additional notable portfolio companies include: AeroDesigns, Affinnova, Agios, BIND Therapeutics, Joule Unlimited, Receptos, Quanterix, and Moderna Therapeutics. For more information, please visit www.flagshipventures.com.

1 Loven, J., Hoke, H., Yin, C., Lau, A., Orlando, D., Vakoc, C., Bradner, J., Lee, T. & Young, R. (2013). Selective inhibition of tumor oncogenes by disruption of super-enhancers. Cell, 153(2).

Whyte, W., Orlando, D., Hnisz, D., Abraham, B., Lin, C., Kagey, M., Rahl, P., Lee, T. & Young, R. (2013). Master transcription factors and mediator establish super-enhancers at key cell identity genes. Cell, 153(2).

Contact:

Sam Brown Inc.

Mike Beyer, 312-961-2502

beyer@sambrown.com


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