ORIC Pharma Plans IPO to Test Therapies for Drug-Resistant Cancers

Xconomy San Francisco — 

With one investigational cancer drug in Phase 1 testing and a second one approaching the clinic, ORIC Pharmaceuticals is looking to tap the public markets for funds to finance that research.

The company, which has set a preliminary target of about $86 million for its initial public offering, is looking to list on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker symbol “ORIC,” according to documents filed with securities regulators late Friday. ORIC is an acronym for “overcoming resistance in cancer.”

The company’s lead drug, ORIC-101, is under evaluation in Phase 1b studies in combination with enzalutamide (Xtandi) in prostate cancer and nab-paclitaxel (Abraxane) in advanced or metastatic solid tumors. Interim data from each trial are expected in 2021.

The discovery of ORIC’s lead experimental drug stemmed from work done by co-founder Charles Sawyers. Previously Sawyers was involved in the discovery of enzalutamide, which aims seeks to slow tumor cell growth by blocking androgens from binding with the androgen receptor. (Androgens, male sex hormones, prompt prostate cancer cell growth.) Another company co-founder, Scott Lowe, is a colleague of Sawyers and an expert in tumor networks and the factors in cancer cells’ response to treatment.

ORIC-101 is designed to tackle tumors that evade anti-androgen therapy by targeting GR activity, another signaling pathway that the company believes cancer cells use to bypass androgen receptors.

Menlo Park, CA-based Corcept Therapeutics also has clinical-stage GR antagonists in its pipeline.

ORIC’s second candidate, ORIC-533, a small molecule inhibitor of CD73, is in preclinical testing. The company plans to ask the FDA for permission to move it into the clinic in the first half of 2021, according to ORIC’s prospectus.

Other companies developing antibodies against CD73 include AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN), Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY), Novartis (NYSE: NVS) in partnership with Surface Oncology (NASDAQ: SURF), Corvus Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CRVS), Innate Pharma, and Tracon Pharmaceuticals in partnership with I-Mab Biopharma (NASDAQ: IMAB).

ORIC also has four discovery and research programs in its pipeline that target drug-resistant solid tumors.

The company plans to use the IPO proceeds to complete its ongoing Phase 1b trials and subsequent dose-expansion studies, and to start a Phase 1 trial of ORIC-533. Later it will need to raise additional capital to finance further development of the experimental drugs.

South San Francisco-based ORIC launched in 2014. The company also has an office in San Diego. CEO Jacob Chacko was formerly chief financial officer of San Diego precision oncology drug developer Ignyta. He joined ORIC in 2018 after Ignyta’s acquisition by Roche.

He’s not the only one on ORIC’s management team who is an alum of the company, whose drug entrectinib (Rozlytrek) was OK’d by the FDA last year for the treatment of cancers with a genetic mutation known as a TRK fusion, and for patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer whose tumors tests positive for genetic variations in ROS1, another oncogenic target. ORIC’s chief medical officer, Pratik Multani, and senior vice president of clinical development, Edna Chow Maneval, most recently held the same roles at Ignyta. Chow Maneval was also vice president of clinical development at Aragon and Seragon, San Diego biotechs that were, prior to acquisition, helmed by another ORIC co-founder, Rich Heyman.

Lori Friedman, ORIC’s chief scientific officer, joined the startup after 15 years at Genentech, where her roles included head of translational oncology for the Roche subsidiary’s Research and Early Development division, which functions as an independent research organization.

As of the end of 2019 ORIC had raised $178.1 million, including a Series D round of $55.5 million closed last summer, according to the IPO filing. The company’s largest outside shareholders are The Column Group, which owns 22.39 percent; Topspin Fund, which owns 15.56 percent; and OrbiMed, which owns 11.67 percent. EcoR1 Capital owns 5.83 percent.

Last year the company reported a net loss of $26.9 million; the year prior, $21.4 million.