Oncology fledgling Carrick bags $95M Series A, names ex-AstraZeneca, Lilly exec as CEO


Carrick Therapeutics has wrapped up a $95 million (€85 million) Series A to fuel its ambition to grow into Europe’s leading oncology company. The startup has persuaded some big names to back its plan, with ARCH Venture Partners and Woodford Investment Management leading the round and a who’s who of academic researchers joining the scientific advisory board.

ARCH and Neil Woodford’s fund are joined on the list of investors by GV--formerly known as Google Ventures--Evotec (FRA:EVT), Cambridge Enterprise Seed Funds, Cambridge Innovation Capital and Lightstone Ventures.

The investors have driven Carrick to one of the bigger biotech Series As in Europe--Adaptimmune ($ADAP) and Immunocore pulled in $104 million and $320 million, respectively--and those involved with the company see the size of the fundraising as something of a statement of intent.

“What I like about Carrick is that it is bold and brash, with a wide-ranging portfolio and proper financing,” John Bell, head of Carrick’s scientific advisory board, told the Financial Times. “Too often this sort of company is set up without enough money. It has no sustainability and falls down five years later.”

Bell is joined on the scientific advisory board by Steve Jackson, the University of Cambridge professor whose work on DNA repair underpinned the creation of KuDOS Pharmaceuticals--which AstraZeneca bought for $210 million in 2006 to gain the then-experimental PARP inhibitor Lynparza--and Mission Therapeutics, another well-financed, up-and-coming British biotech.

Carrick is keeping details of its three active programs secret, but has revealed the science behind one of them comes from Jackson, providing a hint as to the sort of avenues it is pursuing.

Yet, in keeping with its ambition to develop into a European oncology powerhouse, Carrick isn’t pigeonholing itself as a specialist in DNA damage repair or any other scientific niche. Instead, Carrick is casting a wide net across the British and Irish academic research sector and going after targeted, first-in-class treatments for aggressive cancers, regardless of the mechanism of action.

To provide it with a source of scientific ideas, Carrick has formed connections with researchers at universities in Cambridge, Oxford, London and Dublin. The 10-person scientific board is packed with well-known researchers, such as ex-GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) biology chief Chas Bountra. And Carrick has a relationship with Cancer Research UK, a nonprofit that funds early-stage oncology research. Carrick plans to mine these relationships, and strike pharma partnerships, to expand its portfolio beyond its three founding programs.

Responsibility for overseeing the work will fall on Elaine Sullivan, a former VP of R&D at AstraZeneca ($AZN) and Eli Lilly ($LLY). Sullivan left Lilly in January 2015, the same month Carrick--then known as Navillus Therapeutics--was founded. On the founding paperwork filed that month Sullivan, who serves on the supervisory board at Evotec, is the only named shareholder and director.