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Langer biotech adds $16M in venture cash to back next-gen cancer drugs

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Blend Therapeutics CEO Mark Iwicki

The startup biotech Blend Therapeutics rang in 2012 with seed cash and will now close out the year with a fresh injection of $16 million in B-round bucks budgeted to take this startup--one of the latest from the prolific scientist Robert Langer--right to the threshold of clinical development. The biotech has also secured the talents of biotech vet Mark Iwicki at the helm, whose 23 years in the business includes a stint as CEO of Sunovion.

The new injection of cash, Iwicki tells FierceBiotech, will allow the developer to double its staff from 10 to about 20 next year. Most of those new employees will go straight to work on two preclinical drug programs, with a novel "mono-functional" platinum cancer drug on track to complete IND enabling work.

Watertown, MA-based Blend has a trio of notable scientific backers in Cambridge, MA. Along with Langer, there's his longtime associate Omid Farokhzad, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, as well as MIT's Stephen Lippard, whose work at MIT has been heavily concentrated on platinum anticancer therapies. He's been exploring new nanomolecular constructs that can improve the therapeutic punch of platinum drugs.

The lead program helps illustrate the approach. Iwicki notes that previous platinum drugs bind to DNA at two points, which can trigger resistance to the drug. Their mono-functional drug binds at one point, avoiding that trap while delivering the potent treatment in a nanoparticle delivery vehicle that can leave healthy tissue alone while concentrating the therapeutic, a new molecular entity, where it's needed--a big trend in cancer drug development.

Blend's plan is to "build a better platinum drug," says Iwicki, "and use nanoengineering to improve it." And there's plenty of potential for combination therapies with the technology, he adds, which has also helped garner attention from potential partners.

NanoDimension led the round with participation from existing investors Flagship Ventures and New Enterprise Associates. Langer has relied on a number of early-stage investors to launch a string of biotech companies, including Selecta (a 2011 Fierce 15 company) and Bind Biosciences (a 2008 Fierce 15 company).

- here's the press release

ALSO: France's Poxel SA has snagged a $17 million venture round to back a mid-stage study of its diabetes therapy. The experimental therapy, imeglimin, comes from a class of drugs dubbed glimins. It's designed to correct the functions of three organs, including the inhibition of liver glucose in Type 2 diabetics. Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners, CDC Enterprises and Omnes Capital all participated in the round. Poxel plans to ally itself with a development partner going into Phase III. Story

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