Artios Adds $153M to the Bank Amidst a Year of Major Collab Deals


In the past year, Artios Pharma has snagged some big-name partnerships for its candidates. This week's $153 million Series C raise adds to the funding pipeline.  

The Cambridge-based company is targeting the DNA Damage Response (DDR) pathway to attack various cancers. One hallmark of cancer cells is the down-regulation or loss of certain DDR pathways. Artios' inhibitors work by exploiting cancer cells with defective DDR either as a monotherapy or in combination with other approaches.  

Artios has in-licensed its two lead programs to target proteins that control the aspects of DNA repair to kill cancer cells selectively. In February, ART0380, an ATR inhibitor licensed from MD Anderson Cancer Center, began its first clinical study enrolling patients with advanced or metastatic solid tumors.  

The company's other lead program inhibits Polθ expression, upregulated in multiple tumor types, including breast, ovarian, HNSCC, and lung cancers. The program has a goal of first-in-human studies to start this year. 

One leading investor in this Series C round was The Column Group's newest crossover fund, TCG X. Debuted in April with $824 million to funnel into the life sciences, managing partner Dr. Chen Yu credited this investment as value creation for his investors. 

"Artios' DDR programs have been validated by large pharma partnerships which speak to the promise of their science and strategy. Artios' first-in-class platform for developing novel DDR drugs, including their targeted novel Polθ inhibitor with synergies with PARP inhibitors, provides a new potential mode of targeted cancer treatment in identified DDR-defective tumor populations," said Yu. 

Novartis struck up a global research collaboration with Artios this spring, with the option of up to three exclusive DDR targets. The deal secured $20 million upfront for Artios, with the chance at up to $1.3 billion in milestone payments in addition to royalties for any Novartis-commercialized products down the road.  

In December, Artios signed a deal with Germany's Merck KGaA worth $30 million up front and up to $860 million per target. With eight targets on the table, those payments have the potential to really add up if the programs are successful. This team up will jointly identify multiple synthetic lethal targets for precision oncology drug candidates. 

Neither deal included Artios' lead programs, the Polθ and ATR inhibitors. This Series C adds to a 2018 raise of $84 million for the company.  

 "By ensuring that our DDR platform and pipeline programs are well-funded, we have successfully cleared a runway to execute our near-term clinical objectives. Having this caliber of strategic investors supporting our mission to bring next-generation DDR programs targeting hard to treat cancers to market adds further validation to Artios' cancer-killing DDR Platform," said Artios CEO Dr. Niall Martin. 

Also bagging more money to fuel cutting edge R&D this week is Lumira Ventures. The Canada and Boston-based VC firm closed on an oversubscribed fund dubbed Lumira Venture IV. At $220 million, the fund is the largest to date for Lumira.  

The company simultaneously closed on a strategic venture fund with an unnamed "international pharmaceutical company" with collective funds of over $255 million in capital.  

The fund's mission does not specify any targets, as per usual. However, it will invest in "companies at the forefront of biomedical innovation whose products have the potential to transform patient outcomes, improve healthcare access and reduce the cost of healthcare delivery" in North America.  

Amidst the global pandemic, Lumira has managed to close on eight deals with two FDA product approvals within its over 30 portfolio companies. The firm has also completed over $800 million in new financing rounds and IPOs.  

Investing partner Rick Nathan at Kensington Capital said, "The firm is expertly addressing the funding needs of Canada's world-renowned life sciences sector, and we are pleased to see that Lumira Ventures IV has attracted strategic and financial investors new to venture investing in Canada." 

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