Backed by Celgene, Bay Area Startup FLX Bio Bags $50 Million to Push Lead Drug into Clinic

Published: Apr 28, 2016

Backed by Celgene, Bay Area Startup FLX Bio Bags $50 Million to Push Lead Drug into Clinic April 27, 2016
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO – Backed by a Celgene investment, California-based startup FLX Bio nabbed $50 million in Series B financing to push its early stage cancer drug through early trials, the company announced this morning.

FLX’s FLX925 is a selective inhibitor of FLT3 and CDK4/6 and is being studied in a proof-of-concept study in patients with acute myeloid leukemia. The drug is moving into a Phase I clinical trial. FLX925's dual-inhibitor action may be more effective in treating FLT3-mutated AML than other FLT3 inhibitors, resulting in greater clinical benefit. Furthermore, FLX925 has the potential to treat a wider array of cancers beyond AML, the company said on its website.

In addition to FLX925, FLX also has two pre-clinical immuno-oncology programs in early development.

Brian Wong, president and chief executive officer of FLX, said the funds will help the company expand the treatment options for cancer patients by developing novel compounds focused on inhibiting the activity of regulatory T cells and myeloid cells. Myeloid cells are responsible for suppressing the immune system’s ability to kill cancer cells. Before helming FLX, Wong was head of the immuno-oncology program at Five Prime Therapeutics Inc. , the San Francisco Business Times reported.

The $50 million raised in the latest round will go nicely with $29 million in Series A funding privately-held FLX previously raised. That makes $79 million in less than one year since FLX Bio was founded. The Series B financing was supported by multiple venture capital and biotech groups, including The Column Group (TCG), Topspin Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) and Celgene .

This is certainly not the first time Celgene has bought a stake in a company working on immuno-oncology therapies. Last year, Celgene acquired a $1 billion stake in Seattle-based Juno Therapeutics as the two companies entered into a 10 year collaborative agreement to leverage combined immunology and oncology expertise to develop treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases. Bob Hugin, CEO of Celgene, said the Juno deal is the third significant partnership over the past six months and expects to see revenue from the collaborations by 2020. In April Celgene Corporation struck two deals with other pharmaceutical companies with a combined value of $110 million to advance its oncology platform, continuing the cancer drugmaking company’s deal making trend to advance its oncology pipeline. Celgene entered into an $80 million agreement with Agios Pharmaceuticals, Inc. to develop AG-881, a small molecule that has shown in preclinical studies to fully penetrate the blood brain barrier and inhibit isocitrate dehydrogenase-1 (IDH1) and IDH2 mutant cancer models. Celgene also announced today it struck a $30 million agreement with one-year-old Canada-based Northern Biologics to advance that company’s work in oncology and fibrosis therapeutics.

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