Childhood-cancer-focused Day One banks $130M for pan-RAF inhibitor

It’s been a busy year for Day One Biopharmaceuticals. Just nine months after debuting with $60 million to tackle childhood cancers, the company is topping up its coffers with a $130 million series B financing. The funds will bankroll development and launch plans for its lead program, a pan-RAF inhibitor it’s developing for children with brain cancer, as well as its search for new drug programs to pick up.

Despite the scores of new cancer medicines approved in recent years—such as checkpoint inhibitors, new targeted treatments and CAR-T therapies—children often remain an afterthought in cancer drug development.

RELATED: Childhood cancer-focused Day One snags Gilead alum Bender for CEO

"Day One was founded to solve a critical unmet need: Children are being left behind during a cancer treatment revolution," said Jeremy Bender, Ph.D., who joined Day One in September as its CEO, in a statement.

Day One licensed its lead program, DAY101, from Sunesis Pharma, which previously licensed it to Takeda. It has started a pivotal phase 2 study of the drug in children with recurrent or progressive low-grade glioma with BRAF alterations, including gene fusions.

“It’s a drug that is unique in its mechanism of action: It targets BRAF-mutated cancers, but also cancers with BRAF wild-type fusions,” said Samuel Blackman, M.D., co-founder and chief medical officer of Day One, referring to cancers with no known BRAF mutation. Blackman spoke in a previous interview. “A large subset of pediatric tumors is driven by BRAF wild-type fusion, not mutated BRAF. That fusion has been recognized in this subset for over 10 years.”

The company plans to develop DAY101 for adults, too, for the treatment of RAF-altered solid tumors that don’t have any approved therapies.

RELATED: Day One debuts with $60M to change cancer care—starting with children

The series B, drawn from RA Capital Management, Boxer Capital, BVF Partners L.P., Franklin Templeton, Janus Henderson Investors, Perceptive Advisors, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates Inc., Viking Global Investors, Canaan, Access Biotechnology and Atlas Venture, will help DAY101 ramp up its efforts.

Beyond developing DAY101, the $130 million will fuel Day One’s hunt for more assets to acquire or partner on.

“We are proactively searching for—and acquiring or partnering to obtain—what we believe are the best products to change the standard of care for pediatric cancers, but where relevant, for adult tumors that can be treated with the same drug,” said Julie Grant, chair of Day One’s board, in a previous interview. Grant was the general partner at Canaan Partners who co-founded Day One and served as its interim CEO until Bender took over.