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Radiation-Antibody Biotech Raises $105M in Venture Funds

John Valiant

John Valiant (johnvalliant.ca)

2 April 2019. A company creating cancer treatments that combine radiation therapy with the targeting of synthetic antibodies is raising $105 million in its second round of venture financing. Fusion Pharmaceuticals, a 2 year-old enterprise in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and Boston is a spin-off company from radiation chemistry labs at McMaster University in Hamilton.

Fusion Pharma is developing treatments for cancer that deliver radiation to kill cancer cells, but with greater precision and targeting than conventional radiation therapy. The company’s technology, called Fast-Clear Linker, converts therapeutic molecules into radio-pharmaceuticals that join together the cancer-killing capabilities of radiation therapy with the precise targeting of monoclonal antibodies, synthetic antibodies that target specific proteins uniquely found in cancer cells. The therapies developed by Fusion Pharma emit alpha particles from radioactive elements directed at tumor cells expressing specific biomarkers as targets.

The company’s lead product, code-named FPI-1434, is designed to deliver radiation from actinium-225, an isotope or radiation-emitting form of actinium that kills tumor cells. The radiation in FPI-1434 is directed to cancer cells by a humanized monoclonal antibody that seeks out the protein insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor 1, or IGF-1R, an indicator of several solid tumor cancers — e.g., breast, lung, and prostate cancer — where IGF-1R is expressed.

FPI-1434 is being tested in an early-stage clinical trial that began dosing its first participant in February 2019. The trial is enrolling 30 participants with solid tumor cancers at 4 sites in Canada with advanced solid tumor cancers that have not yet responded to treatment or for whom treatments are not available, and where the cancers express IGF-1R proteins. The study team is look primarily at the safety of FPI-1434 among participants, but also uptake of radiation by the tumors, as well as half-life and clearance of radiation and the targeting antibody from the patients.

Fusion Pharma’s work is based on research by John Valiant, professor of chemistry and chemical biology at McMaster, whose lab studies radio-chemistry and drug discovery. Valiant is also the company’s founder and CEO, as well as founder of the Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization, a Canadian-government funded research organization developing radiopharmaceuticals. Fusion Pharma is the center’s first spin-off company. As reported by Science & Enterprise in February 2017, Fusion Pharma raised $25 million in its first venture financing round at the time of the company’s launch.

The new financing round is raising $105 million, led by medical X-ray technologies company Varian Medical Systems and health care/life science venture investor OrbiMed Healthcare Fund Management. Joining the round are several new and existing investors, both venture capital companies and pharmaceutical and biotechnology enterprises. Proceeds from the round are expected to fund further development of Fusion Pharma’s clinical program.

“The investment,” says Valiant in a company statement, “positions us to implement our clinical and partnering strategies around FPI-1434, expand our team and fully exploit the unique advantages of our linker technology.”

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