Syros Files For IPO to Push “Gene Control” Drugs Through First Trials

Xconomy Boston — 

Syros Pharmaceuticals has had the shareholder base of a public company for some time. But today the Cambridge, MA-based company finally took its first official steps towards the Nasdaq by outlining plans for an IPO.

Syros will trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “SYRS” if it completes the IPO. It’ll use the cash to fund early clinical trials for drug candidates SY-1425 and SY-1365, the first two test cases for the discovery work Syros has been doing since its inception in 2011.

Syros has been developing a platform that CEO Nancy Simonian—a former Millennium Pharmaceuticals and Biogen executive—has described to Xconomy as a “lens” to look into how genes are regulated and go awry in disease. These “gene control maps,” as Simonian (pictured) called them, are meant to identify “super enhancers,” which are effectively master switches responsible for turning certain genes on and off. In its IPO prospectus, Syros claims to have found about 50 novel drug targets that could be useful in cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Syros, for instance, found a subgroup of acute myeloid leukemia patients with a super enhancer that controls a gene called retonic acid receptor alpha, or RARa, a transcription factor that helps regulate other genes, and cut a deal with Japan’s TMRC Co. in September for an experimental drug called tamibarotene that targets RARa. That drug is approved in Japan for a different form of leukemia—acute promyelocytic leukemia. Syros is carrying it forward for AML as SY-1425, and will use the IPO cash to fund a Phase 2 study of the drug in a genomically defined subset of AML patients this year.

The firm is making drugs in-house as well, among them SY-1365, which is also for a form of leukemia and blocks an enzyme called CDK7 that is involved in DNA repair.

Syros was formed by Flagship Ventures and Arch Venture Partners and the two remain its most significant shareholders, with 23.8 percent and 22.9 percent stakes respectively, according to the IPO prospectus. But over the last three years Syros has amassed a broad syndicate of so-called crossover investors like Deerfield Management, Casdin Capital, Fidelity Management and Research, Redmile Group, WuXi Healthcare and others. The company has raised $122.2 million in three rounds of funding since its inception, the last of which came in January. Fidelity (11.4 percent), Deerfield (9.1 percent), Polaris Partners (6.4 percent) and WuXi PharmaTech (5.8 percent) are all among Syros’s top investors.

Syros had $62.1 million in cash as of March 31, enough to carry it through mid-2017. The company has burned through about $64.1 million since inception. Its founders are Richard Young (Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research), Nathanael Gray (Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) and Jay Bradner (now the head of the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research).