Tesaro Nabs $20M Series A Financing for Cancer Drugs, $40M More in Reserve

Xconomy Boston — 

A team of cancer drug veterans has formed a new company in Boston. The company, Tesaro, says today that it has raised $20 million in a Series A round of funding from the investment firm New Enterprise Associates and its founders.

Tesaro says it plans to acquire and develop cancer drugs and other oncology products. New Enterprise Associates, which has U.S. offices in Maryland and Silicon Valley, has led the company’s first-round financing and reserved an additional $40 million to support Tesaro as it progresses over time.

The new company unites former top executives of the Minnesota-based drug company MGI Pharma, which had R&D operations in Lexington, MA. The Japanese pharmaceutical firm Eisai bought MGI in 2008 for $3.9 billion. Mary Lynne Hedley, the co-founder and chief scientist at Tesaro, previously led MGI’s and then Eisai’s research labs in Lexington. She also co-founded Zycos, a Massachusetts-based biotech startup, where she was CEO when MGI bought the firm in 2004 for $50 million.

Hedley was not immediately available this morning for an interview. (Here’s a story I wrote about Hedley a few years ago when she won an award from Mass High Tech.)

Tesaro’s founding team includes CEO Lonnie Moulder, who was chief executive at MGI before the Eisai buyout. Rick Rogers, another former MGI executive, is Tesaro’s financial chief. Before launching their newest cancer drug venture, Moulder, Rogers, and Hedley were executives for the Los Angeles-based cancer drug firm Abraxis Bioscience.

It’s not clear from Tesaro’s website whether it has yet acquired any cancer compounds for clinical development. The firm was just formed in March, so it’s possible that the company hasn’t assembled a pipeline. Now, at least, we know that the firm has the money to go shopping for drug candidates it can develop.