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4 April, 2006 - 10:40 By Staff Reporter

£30m funds clinched by anti-cancer specialist

A company commercialising anti-cancer technology jointly developed at the University of Cambridge has completed a £30m Series C financing.

Chroma Therapeutics, which is based in Oxford, has a further Cambridge connection in that key members of its management team are formerly of biotech pioneer, Celltech.

The round was led by Nomura Phase4 Ventures and included participation from all of Chroma’s existing venture capital backers, comprising Abingworth Management, Essex Woodlands Healthcare Ventures, Gilde Healthcare and The Wellcome Trust.

Chroma will use the funds to develop its lead program, CHR-2797, through Phase 2 clinical

studies and to move its HDAC and aurora kinase inhibitor programs into clinical development.

Chroma was founded by Cancer Research Ventures (CRV) to exploit the research of Prof Tony Kouzarides at Cambridge University and Prof Paul Workman at the Institute of Cancer Research in London. The work centres on chromatin, a potentially powerful new avenue of oncology research.

Chromatin is the format in which genetic information is stored within cells. This information is ‘transcripted’ by other cells, using communication media known as chromatin-modifying enzymes (CME).

Cancer cells hijack these enzymes so that tumour suppressor genes, which are used to protect the cell from the oncogenic transformation, are inappropriately switched off or genes that promote cancer (oncogenes) are inappropriately switched on.

It has been found that this family of enzymes affects multiple aspects of tumour growth and importantly, they have been found to be ‘druggable.’

Ian Nicholson, CEO of Chroma and formerly business development director at Celltech said: "In the 18 months since its previous financing, Chroma has built a strong and broad pipeline of first-in-class and best-in-class oncology product candidates. The funds raised in the Series C round will enable Chroma to achieve human proof of concept with its key programs.

The company has also developed novel chemistry approaches that are able to accumulate drugs

inside cells, and selectively deliver drugs to macrophages. Chroma is is also investigating the use of its chromatin technology in the treatment of inflammatory disorders.

Chroma was formed in September 2001 following the closing of a seed round from Abingworth and CRV, and the conclusion of pipeline agreements with the University of Cambridge and ICR. A number of patents in the chromatin field originating from the founding institutions have also been assigned to the company.

In early 2004, the company confirmed the appointment of Ian Nicholson as CEO and in May 2004 the company raised £10m in a Series B financing lead by the Wellcome Trust, joined by Gilde and Abingworth, and in December 2004 raised a further £5m from Essex Woodlands Healthcare Ventures in a Series B-1 financing. Between these two financings, the company entered its lead programme, CHR-2797, into a Phase I trial in solid tumors in October 2004.

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