In May, Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) revealed intriguing data from the first-ever human trial of a drug that targets tumors with a specific mutation to the gene KRAS, which occurs in about one-quarter of all cancers.
Amgen showed 30 percent of lung cancer patients with the mutation saw their tumors shrink. Even though the data were early, the news was significant: KRAS is part of a larger gene family, RAS, that has long proven undruggable.
Now another company going after RAS-driven cancer is riding the wave of momentum. Revolution Medicines has raised a $100 million Series C to advance its own RAS-blocking therapies.
Redwood City, CA-based Revolution raised the funds from a group of life science investors led by Boxer Capital of the Tavistock Group. The company emerged from Boston’s Third Rock Ventures in 2015 with $45 million and plans to improve upon an antifungal drug, plus develop others from naturally occurring molecules. It later tacked on another $25 million to that first round of financing.
But last year Revolution changed its focus, turning to cancer and raising a $56 million Series B round led by Nextech Invest to fuel multiple drug discovery programs.
Now it has one drug in the clinic, RMC-4630, which is designed to block a RAS protein called SHP2. The experimental drug is in Phase 1/2 testing for a range of tumors with SHP2 with global drug giant Sanofi as a partner.
Revolution also has three pre-clinical RAS inhibitors in the works; the most advanced is a program targeting G12C, the mutation that Amgen’s experimental drug is targeting.
Revolution says its compound may have a leg up on other G12C-targeting drugs because it has been designed to target the active state of the mutant gene.
“Preclinical evidence suggests that this mechanism of action confers a superior biological profile compared with first-generation inhibitors and thereby potentially offers significant competitive advantages,” Revolution said in a release Tuesday.
The company also said Tuesday that it had finished integrating the assets it acquired last year from Warp Drive Bio, another Third Rock-founded startup. Warp Drive officials said in 2015 that they had “cracked the problem” of designing drugs to target RAS-driven cancers. They never reached clinical testing and instead split up the company. Its “genome mining” technology, built to sequence natural substances that might have therapeutic applications, was sold earlier this year to Gingko Bioworks.
Cormorant Capital, Deerfield Management, Fidelity, Vivo Capital and Biotechnology Value Fund also participated in Revolution’s latest financing round, as did its Series B investors, including Nextech, Schroder Adveq, The Column Group, Third Rock, and Casdin Capital.