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Nuclear Cancer Therapy Company Launches, Raises $25M

Radio isotope shipment

(Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization)

23 February 2017. A new company developing cancer therapies combining nuclear radiation and synthetic antibodies is starting up in Hamilton, Ontario. Fusion Pharmaceuticals Inc., a spin-off enterprise from from the Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization at McMaster University in Hamilton, is raising $US 25 million in its first venture funding round.

Fusion Pharmaceuticals aims to create treatments for cancer that join together the cancer-killing capabilities of radiation therapy with the precise targeting of monoclonal antibodies, synthetic proteins that target specific proteins uniquely found in cancer cells. The therapies developed by Fusion will emit alpha particles from radioactive elements directed at tumor cells expressing specific biomarkers as targets.

The company’s lead product, code-named FPX-01,  is designed to deliver radiation from actinium-225, an isotope or radiation-emitting form of actinium that kills tumor cells. Fusion is also developing synthetic proteins called centryrins for targeting the tumor cells. Centryrins have been shown to deliver engineered antibodies for immunotherapies to treat blood-related cancers, such as multiple myeloma and leukemia.

Fusion Pharmaceuticals is a spin-off company from the Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization, a government-supported research institute at McMaster University studying radiopharmaceuticals destined for the marketplace. The center says it has more than 50 radiopharmaceutical programs in various stages of discovery, development, or manufacturing, with more than 12 of these therapies in clinical trials.

The company is raising $US 25 million in its first venture financing round. Johnson & Johnson Innovation, a division of the pharmaceutical company backing new enterprises with investment and incubation, is leading the funding round. Taking part in the financing are health care and life science investors HealthCap, TPG Biotech, and Genesys Capital, along with Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust, or Facit, the science commercialization arm of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Facit is a founding seed-stage investor in the company.

Fusion is licensing its centyrin protein targeting platform from Janssen Biotech, also a division of Johnson & Johnson. In addition, HealthCap brings experience in radiopharmaceuticals with investments in two similar companies.

“Targeted delivery of medical isotopes that emit alpha particles,” says John Valliant, Fusion’s CEO in a company statement,  “can be used to kill tumor cells with remarkable precision and unprecedented potency, and it has the added potential of having complementary effects with treatments which activate the immune system.” Valliant is Fusion’s founder, as well as founder and CEO of Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization, and professor of chemistry at McMaster.

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Disclosure: The author owns shares in Johnson & Johnson.

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