With iOnctura and Yellowstone, Syncona adds two cancer biotechs to growing portfolio

Syncona has added two up-and-coming cancer companies to its portfolio, ensuring the biotechs are armed with a combined total of over $100 million in series A and B funds.

The London-based investment firm led the 80 million euros ($85.7 million) series B financing for iOnctura, who also included backers like EIC Fund, the venture arm of the European Innovation Council, M Ventures, Inkef Capital, VI Partners, Schroders Capital and 3B Future Health Fund. Syncona has personally put 30 million euros ($32.1 million) into the company, resulting in a 23% stake in iOnctura.

The Netherlands-based biotech is focused on lead asset roginolisib, which is described as the first allosteric modulator of PI3Kδ. The candidate has already demonstrated long-term safety and promising efficacy in a phase 1b trial in a rare eye cancer called uveal melanoma (UM), the biotech said in a June 20 release.

iOnctura plans to use the newly gained cash to push roginolisib further into the clinic. This will include launching trials of the drug in other indications this year, including non-small cell lung cancer and primary myelofibrosis.

“To date, no company has been able to successfully target this well-known cancer pathway with sufficient precision,” Roel Bulthuis, managing partner and head of investments at Syncona as well as a board member of iOnctura, said in the release. “By allosterically modulating PI3Kδ, iOnctura has achieved a new level of precision and could be the first company to develop a clinically meaningful medicine targeting this pathway.”

The biotech has a second clinical-stage asset in the form of an autotaxin inhibitor called cambritaxestat. The drug is currently in a phase 1b study to treat metastatic pancreatic cancer in combination with chemotherapy.

The other cancer-focused biotech that Syncona has parked in its portfolio is Yellowstone, a U.K.-based company targeting human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class II expression in a range of common cancers.

Syncona has given the preclinical company, which spun out of the University of Oxford, £16.5 million ($20.9 million) in series A funds to build up its pipeline. The biotech is founded on the work of Paresh Vyas, Ph.D., a professor of hematology at the university who built up a biobank of samples from over 3,000 patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

The goal of Yellowstone is to develop soluble bispecific TCR-based therapeutics targeting HLA class II presented peptides on the surface of cancer cells. The company will initially focus its lead program in AML, but also has its eyes on ovarian cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, renal cancer and melanoma.