Artios Pharma completed a €73M (£65M) Series B financing round to develop cancer treatments that target DNA repair mechanisms.
Cancer occurs when cells in part of the body start dividing uncontrollably as a result of damaged or mutated DNA. In collaboration with Cancer Research UK, Artios Pharma is developing cancer treatments that inhibit proteins involved in DNA repair mechanisms, which can cause cancer cells to commit cell-suicide without harming healthy tissue.
Additionally, Artios’ approach can make cancer cells more sensitive to radiotherapy and other DNA-damaging agents or immunotherapies.
“We made a bet two years ago that DNA damage repair was largely overlooked, due to the industry’s preoccupation with immunotherapy,” Jonathan Tobin, Investment Director at Arix Bioscience, a life science specialist investment firm that contributed to the Series B round, told me.
“At the moment there are very few small biotech companies that completely focus on the DNA damage response area. The difference with Artios is its close association with the significant network of Cancer Research UK scientists involved in DNA repair – which have some of the best scientists in the world associated with DNA damage repair research.”
The company’s lead treatment candidate inhibits an enzyme called DNA polymerase theta, which plays a role in multiple DNA repair processes. DNA polymerase theta is usually expressed at low levels in normal tissue but accumulates in different types of tumors, including breast, ovarian, lung, and head and neck cancers.