Cedilla tops off series B with additional $25M to test drugs in mesothelioma, certain breast cancers

Cedilla Therapeutics, an oncology biotech founded by a former Editas executive, has snagged an additional $25 million to bring two small-molecule oncology programs into human trials. 

The financing from RA Capital, Janus Henderson and other VC shops adds to the $57.6 million already raised in series B funds a year ago. The fresh proceeds will go toward studies slated for next year that set up the programs for clinical trials, the Massachusetts biotech said Monday.

Cedilla revealed its two lead programs just last week and plans to conduct trial-enabling studies in the first half of 2022 for the first asset and in the second half for the other. 

“We’ve always been a target-centric company and have gone after those targets that have not been tractable to-date," said Alexandra Glucksmann, Ph.D., CEO, president and founder, in an interview. Glucksmann was previously one of the first hires and chief operating officer at gene editing pioneer Editas Medicine.

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Up first is an inhibitor of TEAD, or transcriptional enhanced associate domain, which is central to the Hippo signaling pathway. TEAD is abnormally regulated in solid tumors, including mesothelioma, an aggressive form of lung cancer caused by asbestos, and certain squamous cell carcinomas, Cedilla said. TEAD also leads to resistance in targeted therapies, such as ones for EGFR- and KRAS-mutated lung cancers. 

The second small-molecule program is a selective inhibitor of CDK2, or cyclin dependent kinase 2, which drives higher levels of cyclin E, including in many patients with CDK4/6-resistant breast cancer, Cedilla said. Breast cancer treatments that inhibit CDK4/6 include AstraZeneca’s Faslodex and Pfizer’s Ibrance.

The drug will be tested in certain tumors, including that specific breast cancer and others like ovarian, uterine, stomach and esophageal, Cedilla said. 

Cedilla's CDK2 inhibitors hope to have a better safety profile than other kinase inhibitors in terms of dose-limiting toxicities, the biotech said. 

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Proceeds will go toward earlier discovery work as well as the hiring of clinical experts in the near term as Cedilla ramps up preparation for human testing, Glucksmann said. The startup will be fundraising again for its next round, the CEO added.

Cedilla is also working with Chinese biotech HitGen on potential oncology drugs. The U.S. biotech gained access to compounds discovered by HitGen through a licensing deal last November, and the two companies will jointly research potential drug candidates for oncology. Terms of the deal were kept under wraps.

RA Partner Jake Simson, Ph.D., joined the board in conjunction with the new financing.