Flare fires up with $123M series B to target transcription factors with 3 Big Pharmas in tow

Things are heating up at Flare Therapeutics, with Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Novartis all adding fuel to the biotech’s fire in a new $123 million financing round.

“We’re the only company focused on transcription factors as prime therapeutic targets,” Flare CEO Amit Rakhit, M.D., told Fierce Biotech in an interview. 

Amit Rakhit, CEO
Amit Rakhit, M.D. (Flare Therapeutics)

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech—which launched in 2021 with an $82 million series A—is targeting transcription factors, proteins that control gene expression and play a key part in cancer and other disease development. The company’s latest financing round, an oversubscribed series B, was led by GordonMD Global Investments and Pfizer Ventures, with participation from all series A investors and several new backers such as Eli Lilly and Novartis.

The money will be used to launch the company’s first clinical trial assessing FX-909, a small-molecule inhibitor targeting the PPARG transcription factor in patients with advanced urothelial cancer. Flare plans to file a request for human trials with the FDA very soon, according to Rakhit. 

The biotech then hopes to transition into the clinic to start dosing patients, most likely in the summer, with a readout anticipated in 2024, Rob Sims, Ph.D., Flare co-founder and chief scientific officer, told Fierce.  

Rob Sims, CSO
Rob Sims, Ph.D. (Flare Therapeutics)

Transcription factors are considered prime therapeutic targets in oncology, but their complex structure has made them extremely hard to drug, Sims explained. Because conventional rules for drug design don’t apply to transcription factors, the Flare team knew it’d have to think outside the box, using chemoproteomics, functional biochemistry, covalent chemistry and genetic insights to gain a deeper understanding of the structural foundations that make transcription factors function.

This knowledge was applied to Flare’s drug discovery platform, which aims to identify new druggable pockets within transcription factor complexes—or what Sims calls “switch sites.” Finding these sites helps Flare figure out where to drug and how to tune gene expression to discover small-molecule precision medicines.

Fueled by this platform, Flare’s pipeline is made up of several preclinical transcription factor targets, all in oncology. The biotech plans to name at least one more development candidate in 2024 and then nominate another in 2025, according to the CSO. 

Oncology is being prioritized right now because there are genetically validated and highly sought-after therapeutic targets in this area, Sims explained.

“It’s a problem people care a lot about,” the CSO said, adding that the company’s unique platform and tangible progress in a short amount of time has resonated with investors.

Daphne Karydas
Daphne Karydas (Flare Therapeutics)

Despite challenging market conditions, Flare Chief Financial Officer Daphne Karydas attributed the oversubscribed series B to large market potential, great science and great people. 

“Among the tougher backdrop, the results speak for themselves,” Karydas said.

With the funding now in the bank, the 40-person company has a cash runway of two years, taking it up to the expected FX-909 data drop. When asked about potential plans to go public, Karydas said Flare is keeping its options open and “putting pieces in place” to be prepared for an IPO.