Rgenix bags $40M to advance cancer drugs, including GSK castoff

New York City
Rgenix licensed the drug from GlaxoSmithKline, which had shelved it because of side effects seen in preclinical studies. (Melissa Mahon)

New York biotech Rgenix has raised $40 million in series C financing to carry out early and midstage trials for a pair of cancer drugs: an immunotherapy for solid tumors and a cancer metabolism inhibitor for gastrointestinal cancers.

RGX-104, the immunotherapy and Rgenix’s lead asset, is designed to target the LXR/APoE pathway that regulates the innate immune response in cancer. Rgenix is developing it both for use alone and in combination with approved treatments, including checkpoint inhibitors. It licensed the drug from GlaxoSmithKline, which had shelved it because of side effects seen in preclinical studies. The second drug, RGX-202, was developed in-house and targets SLC6a8, a creatine transporter that is overexpressed in multiple cancer types.

The company will now support a phase 1b/2 trial for RGX-104 and start a phase 1 trial for RGX-202 later this year, the company said in a statement. Data from a phase 1a dose escalation of RGX-104 in patients with advanced cancers showed immune-stimulatory and anti-tumor activity, the company said. Rgenix is enrolling patients for the phase 1b in multiple cancer indications and will also test the drug in combination with Opdivo.

To help RGX-104 on its second go-around, Rgenix hired Roger Waltzman, M.D., an oncologist who spent a decade at Novartis and worked on antimalarials, as well as cancer meds Gleevec and Jakavi.

“The addition of new investors to our already strong investor base is a testament to the power of our approach to develop first-in-class cancer therapeutics using the innovative Rgenix RNA target discovery platform to identify novel cancer targets,” said Rgenix CEO and cofounder Masoud Tavazoie, M.D., Ph.D., in the statement.

The new capital follows a $33 million B round in June 2016. The investors from that round—Alexandria  Venture Investments, Novo Holdings, the Partnership Fund for New York City and Sofinnova Partners—all returned, while Lepu Medical, Oceanpine Capital and WuXi AppTec’s venture arm joined in too.

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