Celgene-backed Aadi in the driving seat with $23M Series A round

The biotech is run by Abraxane co-creator Neil Desai.

California upstart Aadi Bioscience raised a healthy $23 million in its Series A today as it “stands poised to develop the potential of what we believe is a best-in-class mTOR inhibitor,” according to its founder and CEO, Neil Desai.

The financing was led by Hermed Capital with help from Celgene, Vivo Capital, Decheng Capital, the Helsinn Investment Fund and Star Summit Ventures. The company will use the capital to drive the clinical programs for ABI-009, its targeted albumin-bound mTOR inhibitor, which was licensed out by Celgene to the biotech. Its lead registration study, slated for advanced perivascular epithelioid cell tumors (PEComa, a very rare form of sarcoma), is “on target for 2018 completion of enrollment,” the biotech says.

Its midstage med, mTOR inhibitor ABI-009, is designed to block the activity of a protein called mTOR, which is known to be overactive in PEComa cancer cells. The drug is created using nanotechnology that binds rapamycin to a protein called human albumin. Rapamycin and similar types of therapeutics have been used in various other tumors, including advanced PEComas, but none are yet approved by the FDA for the treatment of PEComa. The hope is that the human albumin component of ABI-009 may allow rapamycin to reach cancer cells more effectively than rapamycin by itself. The study will enroll 30 to 35 patients, with the primary endpoint being overall response rate.

“We are extremely pleased with the participation and interest of our investors and now stand poised to develop the potential of what we believe is a best-in-class mTOR inhibitor,” said Abraxane co-creator Neil Desai, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Aadi.

Aadi’s other planned clinical programs include pulmonary hypertension (phase 1), early stage bladder cancer (phase 2) and pediatric cancers (phase 1). ABI-009 is also being looked at in other cancer indications as well as cardiovascular and other diseases.