Cerulean garners $15M for PhII lung cancer study

Cambridge, MA-based Cerulean Pharma--a 2011 Fierce 15 company--has banked a $15 million D round from a long lineup of venture backers avid to finance the biotech's Phase II study of its lead drug for non-small cell lung cancer. CVF, an affiliate of Henry Crown and Company, jumped in along with Polaris Venture Partners, Venrock, Lilly Ventures, Lux Capital, and Bessemer Venture Partners.

Most of that money is being earmarked for the mid-stage development of CRLX101. In addition to the ongoing study for lung cancer, the biotech is planning additional trials for other indications. Cerulean's docetaxel nanopharmaceutical candidate will also be advanced into clinical trials, and the company will look for other platform development work, including the delivery of RNA-based therapeutics.

The biotech's nanotechnology--drawn from both Caltech (through a licensing pact with Calando) and MIT--revolves around attaching a drug molecule to a polymer. Once it enters the cancer cell, the polymer is discarded and flushed naturally, leaving the drug to do its work without causing havoc in healthy cells. Its lead drug delivers minute quantities of camptothecin--an experimental cancer drug that had to be abandoned because it was so toxic--through the large pores characteristic of the leaky vasculature found in tumors. Another program coming through the pipeline delivers nano-sized doses of Taxotere, or docetaxel. And its work delivering small interfering RNA offers a whole new program that's been attracting the attention of some of the biggest players in the industry.

"To maximize and continue the progress across our portfolio of opportunities, we decided to raise an additional round at this time. I am excited to welcome CVF to our strong investor syndicate," said Oliver Fetzer, Ph.D., president and CEO of Cerulean. "This financing will allow us to further develop CRLX101 in non-small cell lung cancer and explore additional important indications while advancing a set of pre-clinical nanopharmaceutical programs, including one for RNAi delivery."

- here's the press release

Special Report: Cerulean Pharma - 2011 Fierce 15