London, 21 November 2019 - Azeria Therapeutics (Azeria), a newly formed pioneer factor drug discovery company, today announced a £32 million Series B financing in which Syncona has committed £29.5 million alongside existing investor the CRT Pioneer Fund.
Azeria was originally founded in 2017 by Sixth Element Capital, manager of the CRT Pioneer Fund and Cancer Research UK’s Commercial Partnerships team with the aim of building a world class pioneer factor1 oncology company, developing breakthrough treatments for hormone resistant breast cancer patients. It was based on the work of leading expert in the field, Professor Jason Carroll at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, University of Cambridge, UK, whose scientific insights have led to a new approach to target FOXA1 driven cancer.
FOXA1 is an essential pioneer factor which has been shown to be pivotal in the tumour growth, progression and maintenance of oestrogen receptor positive luminal breast cancer. This is an area of significant unmet patient need where approximately 30 per cent of patients progress to late stage endocrine resistant disease2 and where there is potential for new treatments to have significant impacts for patients not addressed by existing therapeutics. Extensive target validation and drug discovery work to date supports the lead programme, with a plan to take the programme into the clinic over the course of the Series B funding. Azeria is seeking to develop the programme to commercialisation and to explore a pipeline of further programmes in oncology.
Azeria received initial investment of £5.5 million in Series A financing from the CRT Pioneer Fund, which focuses on early stage investments in highly innovative oncology programmes. Syncona is the largest investor in the CRT Pioneer Fund and will now participate directly in the next stage of growth and development. Magda Jonikas and Martin Murphy of Syncona will now join the Board of Azeria.
Stephen Myatt, Chief Executive Officer of Azeria Therapeutics said: “Azeria is the product of more than ten years of research by Professor Jason Carroll at Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Institute, University of Cambridge and was created to accelerate research and development into pioneer factors, a completely new target class in oncology including FOXA1. We would like to thank Sixth Element Capital for their continued support and look forward to working closely with Syncona to accelerate the development of breakthrough treatments for hormone resistant breast cancer patients.”
Martin Murphy, Chief Executive of Syncona Investment Management Limited, said: “Azeria is an exciting company and a perfect fit for Syncona’s long term strategy building globally leading healthcare companies. Based on unique, proprietary scientific insight, with a world class academic founder and high-quality team, the company has an opportunity to develop and commercialise treatments which could make a significant difference for patients. The Sixth Element team did an excellent job in identifying and investing in this science to take it to the point where it became an exciting and appropriate opportunity for Syncona.”
1 A pioneer factor is a specialised type of transcription factor, able to ‘open’ compacted DNA to which is a protein that can initiate the expression of genes to make sure they are expressed in the right cell at the right time. Changes in these specific expression patterns can drives certain cancers.