Celgene backs next-gen oncolytic virus startup in $57M Series A

Newly unveiled Oncorus has raised a $57 million Series A to back its efforts to use next-gen oncolytic viruses to treat aggressive cancers including a type of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Active strategic investor Celgene ($CELG) participated in the financing, which was led by MPM Capital.

It hopes to get into the clinic with this round; the Cambridge, MA-based startup already has a lead preclinical candidate in GBM. The financing will also help it round out its technology platform and work on a pipeline in other forms of cancer.

"Oncorus' next-generation immunotherapy platform is extremely innovative and could potentially help many thousands of patients diagnosed with deadly cancers such as glioblastoma,” said MPM co-founder and chairman Luke Evnin in a statement. “We are pleased … to advance what we believe could become a new paradigm in cancer treatment."

Its immunotherapy platform uses next-generation oncolytic herpes simplex virus (oHSV). The company is based on patent rights from the University of Pittsburgh based on the work of Joseph Glorioso III and Paola Grandi, both of whom are joining Oncorus’ scientific advisory board.

Mitchell Finer, who is the co-founder, CEO and CSO of Oncorus, was previously the CSO at gene therapy play bluebird bio ($BLUE). That company had an IPO in 2013 and now has a market cap of almost $1.7 billion, although some skepticism remains about gene therapy.

"We have an urgency to develop medicines for patients with deadly cancers for which limited treatment options currently exist," noted Finer.

Deerfield Management, Arkin Bio Ventures, Excelyrate Capital and Long March Investment also participated in the financing. The Oncorus board will include CEO Finer, MPM’s Evnin, Syndax CEO Briggs Morrison, Deerfield Principal Cameron Wheeler and Biotech Investment Manager Alon Lazarus of Arkin.

- here is the release

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