Rain Therapeutics Inc., a privately-held, clinical stage biotechnology company focused on biomarker-driven, small molecule therapeutics for patients with cancer, today announced the closing of a tranched Series A financing of US$18.4 million (NZ$ 26.7million).
The funding will support development of Tarloxotinib (Tarlox), a novel treatment strategy for cancer patients developed by researchers at the University of Auckland. Tarlox will be initially evaluated as a treatment for patients with EGFR and ErbB Exon 20 insertion mutations in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Rain Therapeutics anticipates start of Phase 2 studies for Tarlox in the first half of 2019.
Rain has worldwide development and commercialisation rights for Tarlox through an exclusive license from Auckland UniServices Limited (the University of Auckland’s Commercialisation Company).
The financing was led by San Francisco-based, Biotechnology Value Fund (BVF) and followed by Perceptive Advisors, Auckland UniServices Limited’s Inventors Fund and other private investors. BVF’s Gorjan Hrustanovic, Ph.D., will join the Rain Board of Directors in conjunction with the financing. The Series A round follows a US$1 million (NZ$1.45 million) convertible note financing completed in late-2017.
“With the proceeds from recent financings we can complete a Phase 2, proof-of-concept study and continue to advance Tarloxotinib,” said Avanish Vellanki, Rain’s co-founder and chief executive officer.
“Our goal is to provide Exon 20 patients with a novel treatment option that results in strong anti-tumor responses while avoiding the debilitating, dose-limiting EGFR toxicities in the gut and skin that are associated with conventional small molecule inhibitors.
“Targeting wildtype EGFR, or wildtype EGFR-like tumors has always been very challenging with conventional small molecule inhibitors because of the abundance of EGFR in healthy tissues,” said Robert Doebele, M.D., Ph.D., co-founder of Rain Therapeutics, and associate professor of medicine and director of the Thoracic Oncology Research Initiative at the University of Colorado.
“Patients with Exon 20 lung cancer show an addiction to EGFR, however the resemblance of EGFR Exon 20 to EGFR wildtype suggests most conventional strategies will be limited by toxicity. With its novel mechanism of action, Tarlox has the potential to address this inherent, unmet challenge in Exon 20 patients.”
The investment by the Inventors Fund continues the support that UniServices is committing to its entrepreneurial staff and students, having made over $5 million of investments in 17 start-ups since its launch in 2016. Commenting on the deal Andy Shenk, CEO of Auckland UniServices said “the Inventors Fund has accelerated the speed at which we are able to get important intellectual property from the University’s Research into well-funded, well-managed companies with international networks and capability, we are delighted that this drug will get the chance to prove its worth.”
“We are pleased to see Tarlox’s clinical potential being recognised by investors and gratefully acknowledge the long term support from Auckland Uniservices and the Health Research Council of New Zealand,” said co-inventors, Associate Professors Adam Patterson and Jeff Smaill from the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre, based at the University of Auckland.
Dr Patterson said the Rain Therapeutics’ team was considering opportunities for clinical trials with Tarlox in New Zealand.
“This is a ‘guided drug’ that is delivered and released into the tumour which results in less side effects than other treatments. There are opportunities for very precise patient selction and we believe Tarlox has broad potential use in other cancers.”
Celebrating Research Excellence, (left to right) Associate Professor Jeff Smaill and Associate Professor Adam Patterson recipients of the Vice-Chancellor’s Commercialisation medal 2018.
About Rain Therapeutics Inc.
Rain Therapeutics Inc. is a privately-held biotechnology company developing biomarker-driven small molecule therapeutics for patients with cancer. Rain’s lead program, Tarloxotinib, is a hypoxia-activated prodrug of a potent pan-ErbB inhibitor in development as a treatment for non-small cell lung cancer patients with EGFR / ErbB Exon 20 insertion mutations. Rain Therapeutics Inc., has worldwide development and commercialisation rights for Tarloxotinib through an exclusive license from the University of Auckland. For more information, visit www.rainthera.com