Oncologie reels in $80M to push clinical programs, build pipeline

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Founded by Laura Benjamin, formerly Eli Lilly’s VP of oncology, Oncologie aims to develop a pipeline of cancer programs in the U.S. and China through licensing and partnering. (pasja1000/Pixabay)

One year after setting up shop in Boston and Shanghai, immuno-oncology startup Oncologie has bagged another $80 million in venture financing. The capital will bankroll three clinical-stage programs, licensing deals and the development of the company’s biomarker platform. 

Founded by Laura Benjamin, formerly Eli Lilly’s VP of oncology, the company aims to develop a pipeline of cancer programs through licensing and partnering. It spent the six months between inception and its $16.5 million seed round building its portfolio—Oncologie picked up its lead candidate, bavituximab from Avid Bioservices and a TLR-9 agonist called lefitolimod from Mologen. Its third asset is an anti-VEGF antibody, varisacumab. 

The financing will support “key” clinical trials in the next few months. These include a proof-of-concept study of bavituximab in tandem with Keytruda in stomach cancer, Oncologie said in a statement. Bavituximab targets phosphatidylserine, a phospholipid that hampers the ability of immune cells to recognize and fight tumors. 

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RELATED: Oncologie kicks off trans-Pacific operations with $16.5M in seed funding 

In addition to advancing Oncologie’s pipeline, the funds will keep the R&D programs coming. The biotech will keep working on its biomarker platform that identifies drug prospects for licensing, as well as helping match patients to the right treatment across its clinical programs. 

"Expectations for precision medicine are increasing worldwide. By matching the right drug to the right patient, Oncologie's innovative biomarker platform is designed to build value by narrowing patient populations, accelerating development timelines and reducing failure," said Benjamin, president and CEO of Oncologie. "This funding allows us to accelerate the development of our pipeline and platform, and grow our portfolio through partnering or acquisition." 

Nan Fung Life Sciences and Pivotal BioVentures China ponied up the series B round, alongside new backers Panacea Venture Healthcare and Korea Investment Partners. 

Oncologie is looking to develop its programs in parallel in China and the U.S. and believes it can leverage recent regulatory changes in China to allow the use of foreign clinical trial data in new drug submissions. 

“We think these coordinated efforts will shorten the time between launching innovative drugs in the U.S. and China,” said Jimmy Wei, managing partner of the Pivotal BioVenture Partners China Fund, in June last year. 

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