Italian cancer startup Philogen gets off an impressive $70M funding round

Quiet antibody biotech Philogen, which has had a difficult and long path, got off a healthy €62 million ($70 million) funding round and brought on new board members as it looks to push on with late-stage development of its oncology assets after decades of development.

That figure is no small feat for a European biotech. Though it will need every euro, given it needs to get two drugs through phase 3: Daromun, which is being tested in patients with fully resectable late-stage melanoma, while fibromun is being studied in metastatic soft tissue sarcoma.

Its pipeline also has meds in earlier stages, notably in phase 1 and 2 trials, and the funding boost will be used “to progress wholly-owned pipeline products through clinical development and expand manufacturing activities.”

Philogen’s approach is based on the antibody-mediated delivery of bioactive payloads to the site of disease, helping spare normal tissues and therefore cutting down on side effects.

While things seem good for the company now, it’s not had the smoothest of roads to this point: Back in 2011, it canceled an expected initial public offering attempt (it was seeking €65.3 million in the offering), the second time since 2008 that it had pulled an IPO.

The first was due to “market conditions” (this was of course during the major economic slowdown), but the second, which was more of a surprise, came after former partner Bayer pulled out of its pact for phase 2 oncology drugs radretumab and darleukin.

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But things started to pick up: Two years later, in 2013, Pfizer nabbed the rights to the biotech’s "armed antibody" dekavil in arthritis. It’s also inked deals with the likes of Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and other biopharmas, although publicity about its dealings has often been thin on the ground.

The biotech also nabbed new board members, including Dr. Guido Guidi, previously head of oncology Europe at Novartis.

“Philogen uses state of the art discovery technology to innovate ligand based pharmacodelivery and is committed to the engineering of superior antibody cytokine fusions.” said Dr. Duccio Neri, CEO of Philogen.

“This financing will help us execute our strategy and develop innovative biopharmaceuticals for the treatment of diseases which urgently better therapeutic modalities. We welcome our three new board members to Philogen and look forward to their valuable contributions at this exciting time in our company’s evolution.”