Cerulean Pharma Grabs $10M for Nanoparticle Drugs

Xconomy Boston — 

[Correction: July 29, 7:15 pm] Cerulean Pharma, the Cambridge, MA-based developer of nanoparticle drugs, said today it has raised $10 million in a Series B round of venture capital.

The company raised the money from its existing crew of investors: Polaris Venture Partners, Venrock Associates, Lux Capital, and Bessemer Venture Partners. Part of the cash will be used to push Cerulean’s lead drug candidate, IT-101, through clinical trials, with the rest for in-licensing new compounds and performing animal tests on other therapies in its pipeline.

Cerulean picked up the money just a couple months after it hired Oliver Fetzer, a former senior vice president of corporate development and R&D at Lexington, MA-based Cubist Pharmaceuticals, to be its CEO. A few weeks after Fetzer joined, Cerulean acquired worldwide rights to IT-101, a nanoparticle form of the anticancer drug camptothecin. By linking the drug to polymers in the nanoparticles, IT-101’s designers hoped to avoid the toxicity of camptothecin, a chemotherapy drug. [Correction: An earlier version of this story said camptothecin is a common chemotherapy drug, but it was never FDA approved, because of its toxicity. It is related to chemotherapies that are commonly used, namely irinotecan and topotecan.]

Cerulean also said it has hired John Ryan, formerly of Cambridge, MA-based Aveo Pharmaceuticals, Wyeth, and Merck, as its acting chief medical officer.

“The financing and the appointment of Dr. Ryan will assist us in advancing IT-101 well into clinical development. We also expect to progress additional nanopharmaceuticals with the potential to substantially improve therapeutic utility over existing cancer chemotherapies, thus proving that our platform can be used as an engine for generating product candidates,” Fetzer said in a statement.