Acrivon Nets $100 Million and Licenses Cast-Off Lilly Oncology Drug
Five months after the company launched, Acrivon Therapeutics secured $100 million in an oversubscribed Series B financing round to support the clinical development of a cancer asset it licensed from Eli Lilly and advance the company’s precision proteomics platform.
Watertown, Mass.-based Acrivon obtained a worldwide license from Eli Lilly for prexasertib, a potent, selective inhibitor of CHK1 and CHK2. Known now as ACR-368, the former Eli Lilly asset has shown durable single-agent activity, including complete responses, in patients across several Phase II studies of platinum-resistant ovarian cancer and squamous cell cancers, including anal cancer for which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) previously granted orphan drug designation. In clinical studies of more than 1,000 patients, Acrivon said ACR-368 is safe and has shown “excellent pharmacokinetic and pharmacological properties.”
Eli Lilly had previously scrapped the development of prexasertib as part of a cull of several oncology assets in 2019. While at Eli Lilly, prexasertib had been in more than a dozen trials as a standalone treatment or in combination with other assets for several solid tumors and blood cancers. As BioSpace previously reported, the CHK1 drug was in a combination trial with Astellas and Medivation’s Xtandi (enzalutamide) for prostate cancer.
In addition to advancing the mid-stage ACR-368, the company said proceeds will be used to expand its headcount and support continued work with its Predictive Precision Proteomics (AP3) technology platform. The platform drives the development of drug-tailored OncoSignature companion diagnostics that link drug mechanisms to the active disease-driving processes of cancer in patients.
Chief Executive Officer Peter Blume-Jensen, who also founded Acrivon, expressed his excitement at the support of the Series B financing round. He said the investors, which includes Wellington Management Company and Surveyor Capital, recognize the “transformative potential” of the company’s platform and pipeline.
“Appropriate patient selection is one of the biggest unmet needs for targeted oncology therapeutics and is currently not possible for the majority of common solid cancers. We are excited to now leverage the broader potential of our AP3 platform, which enables us to decipher a drug’s true mechanism-of-action at high resolution and accurately match that with the disease-driving processes in a patient’s tumor,” Bume-Jensen said in a statement. “This allows us to not only predict individual patient response, but also identify new indications and rational drug combinations, as well as hurdles that block patient responses, such as resistance mechanisms. The initial application of our technology is for the development of ACR-368 and two other undisclosed pipeline programs targeting solid tumors.”
In addition to the support of Wellington and Surveyor, the Series B was backed by RA Capital Management and Perceptive Advisors, as well as new investors Sands Capital, HBM Healthcare Investments, Marshall Wace, HealthCor Management, BB Pureos Bioventures, and Acorn Bioventures. Existing investors Alexandria Venture Investments and Chione Ltd. also supported the financing round.
Derek DiRocco, a partner at RA Capital and a new member of the company board of directors, said Acrivon’s use of its proprietary patient selection methodology could lead the development of ACR-368 to multiple accelerated approval opportunities in high, unmet need cancers.
“We are impressed by the company’s foundational technologies and believe they are broadly applicable to therapeutics beyond ACR-368 and have the potential to usher in a new era of precision-based medicine beyond the industry’s current approaches, which are largely limited to the use of genomic biomarkers,” DiRocco said in a statement.