Mystery investor provides $10M in venture cash to cancer drug upstart

The Natick, MA-based upstart Karyopharm Therapeutics announced this morning that a mystery investor took the lead in handing the biotech $10 million in additional Series A cash, bringing the total amount raised to $32 million as it lays the foundation for its first Phase I study. That should provide a significant runway to Karyopharm, which represents a big second chance for two top executives from the now defunct EPIX Pharmaceutical.

"With these additional resources, we are able to move our oral clinical SINE compound for oncology into Phase I studies in both hematologic and solid tumor malignancies," says Michael Kauffman, the CEO of Karyopharm, in a prepared statement. "The oral bioavailability and preliminary tolerability of the compounds allow us to investigate these agents for indications outside of cancer, including autoimmune, inflammatory and viral disorders. We look forward to bringing the first SINE therapeutic (targeting CRM1, a nuclear export protein) to patients with cancer in the coming year."

Kauffman is the former CEO of EPIX Pharmaceuticals ($EPIX), which had built a staff of 91 by 2008 and had struck collaboration deals with Glaxo ($GSK) and Amgen ($AMGN) before foundering in 2009 after the developer was unable to restructure $100 million in debt. According to a report last year from InVivo, Epix outlicensed computational chemistry technology to Sharon Shacham, PhD, who had developed it while head of EPIX's drug development activities. The outlicensing reportedly took place before EPIX filed for bankruptcy and liquidated its assets. Shacham and Kauffman went on to found Karyopharm.

At the time InVivo reported the initial Series A, Shacham was acting president of Karyopharm and Kauffman was a director. The only investor Karyopharm has acknowledged is Chione Ltd., which Kauffman told InVivo was a Cyprus-based investment vehicle for an unnamed individual.

A call to Kauffman this morning was not immediately returned.

- here's the press release