Stealth SoCal Startup Metacrine Eyes $33 Million and Talent-Cash From Seragon Alums?

Stealth SoCal Startup Metacrine Eyes $33 Million and Talent-Cash From Seragon Alums?
April 22, 2015
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

SAN DIEGO – Metacrine, Inc. , a new startup based in San Diego, has raised $6.5 million in a Series D financing, with a total goal of $33 million, but what it will use the money for remains a mystery.

So far Metacrine, a private company, is keeping silent about its business dealings, or possible research and development areas, although there is speculation that the company could focus on hormonal cancer treatments, a subject the company director Ronald Evans is quite familiar with. To do so, Metacrine could focus on pulling together teams from two former San Diego-based pharmaceutical companies Aragon and Seragon.

Meghana Keshavan of MedCity News, speculated part of Metacrine’s goal is to reassemble some of the top talent from Aragon Pharmaceuticals and its sister company Seragon Pharmaceuticals – primarily due to the relationship between Metacrine Director Ronald Evans and Richard Heyman, a Salk board member who also founded X-Ceptor Therapeutics alongside Evans. Heyman was the chief executive officer at Seragon and also served as president and CEO at Aragon. Until Seragon shuttered its offices earlier his year, Heyman had been overseeing the shut down of Seragon following its acquisition by Roche last year.

Aragon and its prostate cancer drug were snapped up by Johnson & Johnson for $1 billion in 2013. Last year Roche Inc. spent $1.7 billion to acquire Seragon and its breast cancer treatments. When Aragon was acquired, MedCity News said many of those employees found new homes at Seragon, but with that company being acquired, many of those folks will be looking for new positions.

SEC Filings for Metacrine’s financing show Jackie Hernandez is the acting president of Metacrine and Evans, a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory at the Salk Institute, is listed as company director. Evans’ research at the Salk Institute is credited with discovering a family of molecules, or receptors, that are primary targets in the treatment of breast cancer, prostate cancer and leukemia, as well as osteoporosis and asthma. Evans' studies also led to a new hormone that appears to be the molecular trigger controlling the formation of fat cells, according to the Salk Institute website.

In addition to his work at the Salk Institute, Evans helped found Ligand Pharmaceuticals and Syndax, a biopharmaceutical company focused on cancer research, MedCity News reported.

So far though, it’s all speculation. Metacrine did not disclose the reasons for its financing on its Form D. said most startup companies don’t typically reveal the reason for their financing in order to prevent competitors from gaining an advantage in the market.

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