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22 November, 2019 - 13:28 By Tony Quested

Pioneering breast cancer business clinches £32m Series B

Cambridge startup business Azeria Therapeutics has secured a blockbusting £32 million Series B financing to expand the global reach of its technology.The ubiquitous and highly supportive Syncona injected £29.5m of the cash alongside existing investor the CRT Pioneer Fund.

Azeria was founded in 2017 by Sixth Element Capital, manager of the CRT Pioneer Fund and Cancer Research UK’s Commercial Partnerships team. The objective was to build a world-class pioneer factor oncology company, developing breakthrough treatments for hormone resistant breast cancer patients.

It was based on the work of leading expert in the field, Professor Jason Carroll at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, University of Cambridge, UK, whose scientific insights have led to a new approach to target FOXA1 driven cancer. The company is based at  the CRUK Cambridge Institute.

FOXA1 is an essential pioneer factor which has been shown to be pivotal in the tumour growth, progression and maintenance of oestrogen receptor positive luminal breast cancer. This is an area of significant unmet patient need where approximately 30 per cent of patients progress to late stage endocrine resistant disease and where there is potential for new treatments to have significant impacts for patients not addressed by existing therapeutics.

Extensive target validation and drug discovery work to date supports the lead programme, with a plan to take the programme into the clinic over the course of the Series B funding. Azeria is seeking to develop the programme to commercialisation and to explore a pipeline of further programmes in oncology.

Azeria received initial investment of £5.5m in Series A financing from the CRT Pioneer Fund, which focuses on early stage investments in highly innovative oncology programmes. Syncona is the largest investor in the CRT Pioneer Fund and will now participate directly in the next stage of growth and development. Magda Jonikas and Martin Murphy of Syncona will join the Azeria board. 

Stephen Myatt, CEO at Azeria Therapeutics said: “Azeria is the product of more than 10 years of research by Professor Carroll at Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Institute and was created to accelerate research and development into pioneer factors, a completely new target class in oncology including FOXA1.”

Martin Murphy, Chief Executive of Syncona Investment Management Limited, said: “Azeria is an exciting company and a perfect fit for Syncona’s long term strategy building globally leading healthcare companies.

“Based on unique, proprietary scientific insight, with a world class academic founder and high-quality team, the company has an opportunity to develop and commercialise treatments which could make a significant difference for patients. 

“The Sixth Element team did an excellent job in identifying and investing in this science to take it to the point where it became an exciting and appropriate opportunity for Syncona.”

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