SpringWorks nets $125M to propel desmoid tumor, neurofibroma programs

Dollars
SpringWorks emerged in September 2017 with $103 million in series A capital and a clutch of clinical-stage Pfizer drugs. (NikolayFrolochkin/Pixabay)

SpringWorks Therapeutics raised $125 million in its series B to advance its two lead candidates, both of which are in development for noncancerous tumors: a gamma-secretase inhibitor for desmoid tumor and a MEK inhibitor for neurofibromatosis type 1. The company is also testing the latter asset, PD-0325901, in combination with an RAF inhibitor from BeiGene. 

SpringWorks’ gamma-secretase inhibitor, nirogacestat, is one of a handful of drugs being tested in desmoid tumor. The others include Novartis’ kidney cancer med Votrient (pazopanib), Bayer’s Nexavar (sorafenib) and Iterion Therapeutics’ tegavivint. Desmoid tumors form in connective tissue in the bones, ligaments and muscles. They are fibrous—like scar tissue—and are generally considered benign because they don’t spread to other parts of the body. Most desmoid tumors are surgically removed as they can “aggressively invade” surrounding tissue, but surgery can be difficult and does not guarantee the tumor will not simply recur. 

As for PD-0325901, SpringWorks is developing it for plexiform neurofibromas—nerve tumors that may become cancerous—associated with neurofibromatosis type 1, a condition characterized by changes in skin coloring and the growth of tumors along nerves in the skin, brain and other parts of the body. Last September, the company teamed up with BeiGene to test the asset alongside the latter’s RAF dimer inhibitor, lifirafenib (BGB-283), in patients with advanced solid tumors that have RAS and RAF mutations. RAS mutations turn up in about one-third of all cancers and about one-quarter of solid tumors. What’s more, RAS-mutated cancers tend to be aggressive and treatment-resistant, making the mutation an attractive target. However, scientists have had trouble creating drugs that safely combat its effects. 

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RELATED: SpringWorks names a CEO, inks a combo therapy deal with BeiGene  

The financing comes from a laundry list of investors that includes existing backers Pfizer, LifeArc, Bain and OrbiMed, as well as newcomers ArrowMark Partners, Boxer Capital of Tavistock Group, HBM Healthcare Investments, BVF Partners, Citadel’s Surveyor Capital, Laurion Capital Management and GlaxoSmithKline. 

"This financing from a committed, knowledgeable and distinguished investor syndicate ... underscores the progress we’ve made to advance our late-stage clinical programs towards pivotal studies, execute on our initial business development strategy, and build upon our leading drug development operations,” CEO Saqib Islam said in a statement. “We are well positioned to continue to execute on our strategy to build a leading rare disease and targeted oncology company that brings promising science to underserved patient communities.” 

In addition to advancing nirogacestat and PD-0325901, the financing will also support the company’s younger programs, which include a preclinical-stage FAAH inhibitor for central nervous system disorders. The series B comes just one and a half years after the Stamford, Connecticut-based biotech launched with $103 million in series A capital and a clutch of clinical-stage Pfizer drugs. 

SpringWorks won’t rely on its Pfizer-developed assets forever; it plans to build out its pipeline by partnering with other biopharmas as well as academic institutions. Part of the financing will go toward future in-licensing deals and clinical partnerships in rare diseases and cancer, the company said in the statement.

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