Blueprint Medicines Hauls in $25M For Cancer Drug Push

Xconomy Boston — 

Blueprint Medicines has just grabbed a new round of cash to help get its first drug candidate into a clinical trial next year.

The Cambridge, MA-based company said today that it’s completed a $25 million Series B round led by new backer Nextech Invest Ltd., as well as some new investors—Biotech Value Fund and Casdin Capital—that are better known for investing in public companies. Founding investors Third Rock Ventures and Fidelity Biosciences, as well as certain other undisclosed backers, also took part in the round. Including its $40 million Series A, Blueprint has now raised about $65 million since it was formed in 2011.

Blueprint has raised the cash during a time of executive transition. When Xconomy last caught up with the company in March, Chris Varma headed the company. He has since stepped down—Third Rock partner Alexis Borisy is currently its interim CEO. Blueprint never made an announcement about the change. It did, however, name Kyle Kuvalanka, formerly of Millennium Pharmaceuticals, its chief business officer in September.

Blueprint was formed based on the idea of using high-speed DNA sequencing instruments to help churn out precisely targeted cancer drugs that hit kinase enzymes. Nick Lydon and Brian Druker—two of the scientists that helped develop Novartis’ blockbuster imatinib (Gleevec), one of the first targeted cancer therapies—helped co-found the company three years ago.

To date, Blueprint hasn’t tested any of its drug candidates in human patients. But the company says that the extra cash will help it begin its push towards the clinic. Its lead programs target the D816v mutation of the c-Kit gene, which Blueprint noted is a genomic driver of systemic mastocytosis, as well as a genomically-defined subset of patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumors. It’s also developing drug candidates that would treat a subset of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma. Blueprint said it expects to begin its first clinical trial in 2015.

“Given our approach of selective compounds to clear genomic drivers, with the resources provided to us through this financing, we will be able to move forward into the clinic and rapidly establish clinical proof-of-concept in well-defined patient populations.” Borisy said in a statement. “These product candidates will be developed as single agents in late-stage and resistant patient populations, and in combinations with other targeted agents and modalities in earlier lines of therapy.”