Artios raises $153M to fund DNA damage repair clinical trials

Artios Pharma has raised $153 million to take its DNA damage response (DDR) pipeline deeper into the clinic. The series C positions Artios, which is run by some of the people behind pioneering DDR drug Lynparza, to test the effect of interfering with DNA double-strand break repair processes.  

After AstraZeneca bought KuDOS Pharmaceuticals for $210 million to gain control of the drug that would become Lynparza, some of the people who worked on the PARP inhibitor went on to explore other enzymes involved in DNA repair at Artios. The work led to partnerships with Merck KGaA and Novartis, and now to a triple-digit series C financing round.

Omega Funds and TCG X co-led the series C round with the support of new investors including Avidity Partners, Invus, Deep Track Capital and Sofinnova Partners. Artios said existing investors including the VC wings of Novartis and Pfizer continue to support it “through their participation.” 

News of the round comes months after Artios started clinical development of the ATR inhibitor that it in-licensed from MD Anderson Cancer Center and ShangPharma Innovation in 2019. Artios is testing the drug prospect as a monotherapy and in combination with gemcitabine in patients with advanced or metastatic solid cancers. 

The series C round will enable Artios to continue studying the ATR inhibitor, ART0380, while getting its other main program into the clinic in the second half of the year. The second program targets DNA polymerase theta (Polθ), an enzyme involved in DNA double-strand break repair.

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As Polθ expression is low in healthy tissues but upregulated in various solid tumors, Artios sees opportunities to use its inhibitor, ART4215, to treat homologous recombination deficient cancers such as breast and ovarian malignancies as well as in combination with chemotherapy and radiotherapy that damages the DNA. 

“Artios’ first-in-class platform for developing novel DDR drugs, including their targeted novel Polθ inhibitor with synergies with PARP inhibitors, provides a new potential mode of targeted cancer treatment in identified DDR-defective tumor populations,” Chen Yu, founding managing partner at TCG X, said in a statement.