X4 Pharma Bags $37.5 Million in Funding, Backed by Former Genzyme Execs

X4 Pharmaceuticals Bags $37.5 Million in Funding, Backed by Former Genzyme Execs
September 2, 2015
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – X4 Pharmaceuticals, which combines the talents of a number of former Genzyme Corporation employees, netted $37.5 million in Series A financing to be used in helping develop oral treatments for various cancers, XConomy reported this morning.

Paula Ragan, X4’s president and CEO who spent six years at Genzyme, would not disclose who the primary financiers of the Series A funding round are, XConomy said.

So far the company has remained well below the radar, holding its cards very close to its vest. X4 was established in 2012 with a goal of developing oral CXC chemokine receptor type 4 (CXCR4) antagonists for the treatment of solid tumors and rare diseases, according to the company website. X4’s lead candidate X4P-001 is advancing into Phase I/II trials in refractory clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) and refractory epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). The company said its X4P-002 program is also in early clinical development for a treatment for glioblastoma multiforme, a rare form of lethal brain cancer.

XConomy said X4 acquired the rights to these two compounds through a licensing deal with “a top-10 global pharmaceutical company.” Which company that was though was not disclosed. XConomy speculated the company could be Sanofi , the parent company of Genzyme. Sanofi was looking to sell rights to a group of oral CXCR4 drugs, XConomy reported.

The company will leverage its CXCR4 research against past experience working with Genzyme’s plerixafor, which is also a CXCR4 blocker, XConomy said. X4’ co-founder Renato Skerlj has experience developing CXCR4 drugs, including Genzyme’s Mozobil for the treatment of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

Ragan told XConomy the company believes CXCR4 has been “underexploited” as a drug target. She said blocking CXCR4 might allow the body to produce more T-Cells to fight cancerous cells. She said a CXCR4 antagonist could potentially be paired with promising oncology drugs like Merck & Co. ’s Keytruda, or Bristol-Myers Squibb Company ’s Opdivo. Keytruda has been shown to be effective in treating patients with three types of cancer, melanoma, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Opdivo is a treatment of patients with metastatic squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with progression on or after platinum-based chemotherapy.

Unlike many other pharmaceutical startups, X4’s website consists of a single page that includes a cursory overview of its research targets and a list of executives. The company was built on the backs of former Genzyme employees, including founder Henri Teemer, the former president and chief executive officer of Genzyme.

Other Genzyme links include board member Richard Peters, the Strategy Development Officer at Genzyme and X4’s Chief Operating Officer Alison Lawton, who spent 21 years at Genzyme.

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