C4 Therapeutics Adds $170M to Test Protein Degraders in the Clinic

Xconomy Boston — 

C4 Therapeutics, a biotech developing small molecules designed to take advantage of a cellular mechanism as a way to treat disease, has raised $170 million in venture equity and debt to start human testing.

The Watertown, MA-based firm is among a number of companies competing in the popular protein degradation space, in which drug developers aim to leverage cells’ existing recycling apparatus to destroy disease-causing proteins rather than target them for inhibition.

C4T, names after the common plastic explosive C-4, launched in 2016 with $73 million from financial backers including Cobro Ventures, an investment firm launched by tech entrepreneur Marc Cohen and his brother, Alain. Read more about C4’s debut here.

The company was initially headed by Jason Fisherman, but he left after less than a year in the role. C4 promoted its chief scientific officer, Andy Phillips, to president after Fisherman left, then to CEO about two years ago. Now co-founder Cohen holds the top spot.

His firm led the $150 million equity portion of this latest financing alongside Perceptive Advisors, a new investor. Perceptive also kicked in $20 million in venture debt.

The idea behind degrader-based medicines is to figure out how to flag disease-causing proteins so a cell’s internal machinery targets them for destruction. This approach is intended to be more effective than inhibitor drugs. It’s also hoped that it produces a longer lasting therapeutic effect, overcoming the drug resistance that can develop with inhibitors.

C4 hasn’t revealed what proteins it intends to target. But on Tuesday the company said its pipeline is focused on oncology, and that by year’s end it intends to ask the FDA to clear its lead drug candidate for human testing. The company anticipates that program will enter the clinic in 2021, and plans to move three more into human testing by the end of 2022.

Cobro managing director Todd Kaloudis, in a prepared statement, said the company’s approach has been validated by the “high-value” strategic partnerships it has struck.

When the company debuted it revealed it was already working with Roche. Then, in 2017, the company and Calico, the life sciences arm of Google parent company Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL), announced the companies would collaborate on therapies for treating disease of aging, including cancer.

Last year C4 unveiled a new partnership with Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB), that netted it $415 million up front to start up joint efforts on potential new treatments for neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. It also announced it had updated its alliance with Roche with a focus on new cancer treatments.

A slew of new equity investors participated in the company’s Series B financing round, including Adage Capital Management, Axil Capital, Bain Capital Life Sciences, Commodore Capital, 3E Bioventures Capital, HBM Healthcare Investments, Lightchain Capital, Logos Capital, Mizuho Securities Principal Investment, Nextech, RA Capital Management, RTW Investments, Sphera Funds Management, Taiwania Capital Management, Yonjin Venture, and funds and accounts managed by T. Rowe Price and Janus Henderson Investors. Earlier investors also participated.

Image: iStock/artisteer