Epizyme Tacks On Extra $8M Financing For Drugs that Turn Genes On or Off

Xconomy Boston — 

Epizyme has found a new benefactor. The Cambridge, MA-based biotech company, which develops drugs that dial genes on or off using “epigenetic” techniques, has raised another $8 million in its Series B venture financing from New Enterprise Associates (NEA).

Tacking on that extra cash means Epizyme has now raised a total of $40 million in its Series B round, and tallied up $54 million since its initial financing in February 2008. In connection with the deal, Epizyme is adding NEA general partner David Mott to its board. Mott is the former CEO of MedImmune, who sold the company to AstraZeneca for $15.6 billion in 2007.

NEA is joining a growing list of deep-pocketed VC firms backing Epizyme, which includes Bay City Capital, MPM Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Amgen Ventures, and Astellas Venture Partners. They are all lining up behind the company’s vision for making first-in-class small molecule drugs that block certain enzymes implicated in cancer, known as histone methyltransferases (HMTs). In blocking such enzymes, the new drugs use insight from a field of science called epigenetics, which explores how certain genes can be turned on or off without altering the underlying DNA. Epizyme said last spring that its main focus was to develop these drugs for cancer, but two months ago, the company said it saw broader opportunities to also make treatments for inflammatory diseases, metabolic disorders, and neurodegenerative conditions.

“Epizyme’s founders, management team, collaborators and investors have done an outstanding job of creating a leading company in the rapidly emerging field of epigenetic drug development and research,” Mott said in a statement. He added that NEA wants “to continue building a great company.”