Pfizer-Backed Flare Seeks Transcription Factor Therapies with $123M Series B
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Flare Therapeutics closed an oversubscribed Series B funding round Wednesday counting $123 million in earnings, which it will use to advance FX-909, its lead precision oncology asset in urothelial cancer.
Pfizer Ventures and GordonMD Global Investments LP led the financing. Other existing investors participated, including Boxer Capital, Eventide Asset Management and Third Rock Ventures. Flare also gained new supporters, including Novartis and Eli Lilly, during its Series B.
FX-909 is Flare’s investigational small-molecule inhibitor targeting the PPARG transcription factor. In cancers, PPARG is responsible for suppressing inflammation and makes the immune system weaker against tumors. The transcription factor also plays a role in cell division, differentiation and death.
The company expects to launch a clinical trial for the asset in 2023.
Aside from FX-909, Flare will also use its Series B earnings to advance its pipeline of transcription factor-targeting molecules for oncology indications. In 2024, the company expects to pick at least one additional development candidate from its research pipeline.
Flare’s answer to cancer is to target transcription factors, said Craig Gordon, M.D., founder, CEO and chief investment officer.
"These molecules represent one-third of all oncogenes, and targeting them could have significant therapeutic potential in cancer," he said.
Still, their structure “makes them notoriously difficult to drug,” said Rob Sims, Ph.D., co-founder and chief scientific officer, Flare, in a statement. To date, fewer than 1% of transcription factors have been successfully drugged, according to Flare’s website.
Flare’s drug discovery platform combines chemoproteomics, structural biology and genetics to identify switch sites, which are pockets crucial to transcription factors' structural integrity and function.
The company then uses its biochemical and cell-level systems to validate the value of targeting specific switch sites and identify novel compounds to drug these pockets.
Flare’s Series B is the third high-value funding round in a month and may indicate better days ahead for the industry.
In late February, Boston- and Copenhagen-based Hemab Therapeutics raised $135 million in its Series B round to develop treatments for lesser-known and neglected severe bleeding disorders such as Glanzmann Thrombasthenia and Von Willebrand disease.
The company will use the money to advance its lead asset HMB-001, currently in a Phase I/II study for Glanzmann Thrombasthenia.
In early March, Chroma Medicine also bagged $135 million in Series B funding to advance its epigenetic medicines to the clinic. The company achieves gene control without changing the DNA sequence, allowing it to side-step common pitfalls of CRISPR-based systems and simultaneously deliver edits to several genetic loci.
Chroma has yet to disclose any target or its timeline of development.