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Avalon, TPG Lead $15M Deal to Advance Metformin as Cancer Drug

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reduce this energy consumption by cancer cells. But studies also show the effects are limited to a small number of cancers that express specific “transporter proteins,” which open pores through the cellular wall and enable metformin to enter the cell.

Cancers that do not produce such transporters are more impervious, because metformin is not easily absorbed into the cell.

Pietras and Jung recognized that the absence of transporter proteins limited the potential use of metformin as an anti-cancer drug for most cancers, so they designed metformin analogs that overcame such limitations, Campbell said. These analogs showed broad anti-cancer effects in pre-clinical studies that far exceeded metformin, but also maintained metformin’s safety profile.

And because metformin is so widely used as an anti-diabetes drug (and has been used for decades), its safety profile is well understood, Campbell added.

Enlibrium said it has signed an exclusive license for the technology developed in the Pietras and Jung labs. Jung, a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCLA, also contributed to the development of the prostate cancer drugs Xtandi from Medivation and ARN-509 from San Diego’s Aragon Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Johnson & Johnson in 2013).

In conjunction with the financing, Avalon partner Jay Lichter and Heather Preston, a TPG partner and managing director in San Francisco, have joined Enlibrium’s board. The biotech has taken space in COI Pharmaceuticals, the “community of innovation” that Avalon established in San Diego to provide resources and support for the firm’s portfolio of early stage biotechs.

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