Phoenix Molecular Designs, a biotech developing kinase inhibitors to treat cancer, has brought in an undisclosed amount of financing—boosting its total seed funding raised to $12 million.
The San Diego-based biotech says the proceeds will help fund the Phase 1/1b clinical trial of its lead candidate, PMD-026, an investigational cancer drug being developed to treat an especially deadly form of breast cancer.
The trial will include a companion diagnostic developed in partnership with Roche to assess levels of activated RSK2, a kinase which the company identified as a key driver of growth in target triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).
“The goal is to provide a precision medicine solution for breast cancer patients,” Sandra Dunn, CEO of PhoenixMD, tells Xconomy.
While designed specifically to target TNBC, the company is developing PMD-026 as a platform technology to treat various resistant forms of cancer. Dunn says the company will continue expanding the platform, examining its use not only as a single agent, but in combination with hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.
The FDA earlier approved the first combination therapy regimen for the treatment of breast cancer that includes an immunotherapy, pairing Roche’s atezolizumab (Tecentriq) with chemotherapy.
Though several immunotherapies have been approved for other indications, it’s use in breast cancer is challenged by the disease’s biological complexity. Not only does the makeup of breast cancer tumors differ from patient to patient, but the tumors themselves are often made up of a variety of cell types with differing characteristics.
“A lot of people have been trying to crack this for a long time—the really big challenge was trying to develop a drug that was orally available and that could reach the tumor,” explains Dunn.
Proceeds from the funding round also will support expansion of PhoenixMD’s clinical operations team, which is based at JLABS San Diego, a Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) startup incubator. The company also has preclinical operations in Vancouver, BC, and today employs about 30 staff members full time or as consultants. Within two years, Dunn expects this number to be closer to 50.
Participating investors in the seed round included Pallasite Ventures and World Changing Ventures.
(Main image: CAP/CLCo-developed with Roche. Credit: PhoenixMD)