Inhibiting cancer cells’ ability to function is the target of a new wave of biomed startups
Cancer-fighting medical startups are all the rage these days, as Israeli company Metabomed proved Monday when it announced it raised $18 million in venture capital.
The Series A funding round included new investors Pfizer and Arkin Holdings, plus existing investors MS Ventures (pharma giant Merck’s venture arm), Pontifax LLC, Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund, and the Technion Research and Development Foundation. The head of MS Ventures’ Israel BioIncubator Fund, Simone Botti, will be Metabomed’s new CEO.
Metabomed defines itself as a “cancer metabolism company” that focuses on “small molecule drugs” that deactivate metabolic genes in cancer cells. The money will be put toward researching making those drugs’ targeting more sophisticated and better at ignoring healthy cells.
With MS Ventures and that VC’s BioIncubator, Merck seems to have a strategic focus for its venture branch. MS Ventures has committed to €10 million for early stage startups and granting them research space at Merck’s R&D center in Yavne, Israel.
Merck’s overall strategy appears to be moving in the direction of tumor metabolism treatments. In November, Merck launched a partnership with Selvita to research new “small molecule drugs against multiple oncology indications,” according to industry news site Fierce Biotech.
Some of their other portfolio companies also focus on oncology: ChanBio LTD (Yavne, Israel), EpiTherapeutics (Denmark), Galecto Biotech (Denmark), immunotherapy startup Vaximm (Darmstadt, Germany), and another high-rolling cancer metabolism startup Raze (Cambridge, Massachusetts).
Other 2015 deals in the field include Celgene putting $80 million into Adios Pharmaceuticals and Bayer sponsoring up to $210 million worth of research by Swedish company Sprint Bioscience of early stage tumor metabolism. The startup getting the most attention these days in the field is Berg, which has used algorithms to discover new drug therapies.
Metabomed was founded by MS Ventures and operates out of the VC’s BioIncubator. Its three main proprietors are top researchers in computational biology and cancer metabolism: Prof. Eyal Gottlieb of Glasgow (Beatson Institute for Cancer Research), Prof. Eytan Ruppin (Tel Aviv University and the University of Maryland), and Prof. Tomer Shlomi from the Technion Israel Institute of Technology.
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