Shasqi snatches $50M for chemotherapy-boosting treatments thanks to Arcus, NGM execs

Shasqi prides itself on being a company of many firsts. 

The biotech hails from Y Combinator and was the first of the startup accelerator's offshoots to focus on therapeutics—and to enter human trials. Overall, the company claims to be first to advance a click-chemistry-based therapy into humans.

Now, Shasqi has collected $50 million in a series B financing to fuel the path through the clinic. The funding round was driven by a cohort of private investors including Arcus Biosciences President Juan Jaen, Ph.D., and Bill Rieflin, executive chairman of the board at NGM Biopharmaceuticals.

Shasqi has developed a proprietary platform called Click Activated Protodrugs Against Cancer (CAPAC), which activates existing cancer drugs at the tumor with decreased toxicity. The lead program is SQ3370, which will be supported by the funding round.

The company is planning a phase 2 registrational study of the drug's effect on activating the chemotherapy doxorubicin in soft tissue sarcoma for 2022. 

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Shasqi presented proof-of-concept data for SQ3370 from a phase 1 study at the European Society for Medical Oncology Congress earlier this year. At the time, the biotech said the drug was found to spur a 50-times greater exposure of doxorubicin in tumors versus plasma. The goal is to boost the anti-tumor effects of the chemotherapy. 

The San Francisco biotech's new funding will also be used to develop antibody-based therapeutics and expand CAPAC. The company is hoping to develop precision oncology, tumor-targeted therapies that do not require the direct injection of medicine into the tumor. The platform can be applied to a range of cancer drugs, the company said.

Shasqi CEO and founder José Mejía Oneto, M.D., Ph.D., said the funding will help expand the platform to antibody-based approaches, immune cell engagers, radiopharmaceuticals and more. The company will initiate two development programs in the next two years and consider partnerships with "industry leading oncology companies," according to a release.