ORIC Pharmaceuticals issued a press release announcing a B Series financing of $53 million to support the development of the company’s initial drug candidate’s first clinical trial and to further develop additional therapies in the company’s pipeline. ORIC’s first drug candidate will focus on the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) as a target for androgen receptor (AR) resistance in prostate cancer, as studies have shown that the GR may substitute AR in driving prostate cancer growth and metastasis in a context of androgen deprivation.
ORIC Pharmaceuticals, a company headquartered in San Francisco, California, is a privately-held cancer therapy enterprise driven by the discovery and development of small-molecule drugs that target treatment-resistant cancers, focusing first on advanced prostate cancer. The company was founded in 2014 and is funded by leading biotechnology investors like The Column Group, Topspin Partners, OrbiMed Advisors, EcoR1 Capital, Foresite Capital and Kravis Investment Partners.
“We are pleased to have the support of such a distinguished group of biotechnology investors, who share our excitement about the opportunity to solve the pervasive problem of cancer-treatment resistance,” claimed Richard Heyman, Ph.D., interim CEO and board member of ORIC Pharmaceuticals. “With our world-class co-founders and leadership team, robust discovery platform and focus, we believe we are uniquely qualified to tackle this challenge and develop next-generation therapies that will help people with cancer live longer.”
The American Cancer Society estimates that 27,000 men may die of prostate cancer in 2015, mainly because they develop resistance mechanisms to the therapies available today. Castration-resistant prostate cancer therapeutics is expected to yield $9.5 billion in the global market by 2020, claims Allied Market Research.
ORIC was first established by two outstanding oncology experts, namely Charles Sawyers, M.D. and Scott Lowe, Ph.D., who are members of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Sawyers and Dr. Lowe have participated in state-of-the-art research concerning resistance to cancer-treatment, leading the discovery and development of many novel therapeutics. Dr. Sawyers was involved with the finding of innovative leading drugs, such as imatinib, for chronic myelogenous leukemia; and enzalutamide plus ARN-509 for castration-resistant prostate cancer. Dr. Lowe first identified BRD4 as a therapeutic target in acute myeloid leukemia with targeted drugs now under trials.
Besides the two academic co-founders, the company recently welcomed a new CSO, Dr Valeria Fantin, Ph.D., who is an executive in biopharmaceutical with profound knowledge in oncology drug discovery and development. Together, the team is working with advisors to deepen clinical comprehension about tumor-resistance mechanisms at a molecular level. The company wishes to replicate these mechanisms using unique lab-based models to identify drug targets with a clear development opportunity. The drugs targeting resistance mechanisms related with androgen receptor (AR) therapies are the main focus of the company to treat advanced prostate cancer.
“Treatment-resistant cancer is an area of tremendous unmet clinical need. We are confident that the internal and external expertise we have cultivated – in addition to the systematic scientific approach we are employing – will enable ORIC to unlock key mechanisms of resistance and develop next-generation therapies that transform cancer treatment,” stated Dr. Fantin, ORIC’s CSO.
“The Column Group worked with Dr. Sawyers and Dr. Heyman at Aragon Pharmaceuticals and Seragon Pharmaceuticals, and we have tremendous confidence in their ability, as well as that of the ORIC team, to translate deep clinical insights into actionable targets for drug discovery and development,” claimed Peter Svennilson, founder and managing partner of The Column Group, and ORIC Pharmaceuticals Board chairman. “We are particularly excited about ORIC’s GR program for prostate cancer.”
Dr. Heyman is the co-founder and former CEO of Aragon Pharmaceuticals, the company that developed ARN-509 as a treatment for prostate cancer and was later bought by Johnson & Johnson. Afterwards, he became CEO of Seragon Pharmaceuticals, an enterprise driven to develop drugs targeting hormone-dependent breast cancer, later assimilated by the Roche Group.