Syndax banks an $80M crossover round for PhIII cancer drug

Briggs Morrison

Two months after signing up AstraZeneca ($AZN) R&D leader Briggs Morrison as its new CEO, Waltham, MA-based Syndax has raised $80 million from a syndicate that includes a group of high-profile crossover investors.

Syndax shelved an attempted IPO ahead of the CEO move. But this new C round may well signal that a new attempt to go public is in the offing, with its lead drug--which was awarded a breakthrough drug designation by the FDA--in Phase III for breast cancer.

The stock market has been roiled for days now, but the IPO window for biotech has been open for close to three years. Any new filings will likely test investors' appetite for risk in a time of economic uncertainty.

Fidelity Management & Research Company and Delos Capital Fund LP led the round, with participation from EcoR1 Capital, OrbiMed, Jennison Associates (on behalf of certain clients), Tavistock Life Sciences, Arrowpoint Partners, Cormorant Asset Management, BioMed Ventures and undisclosed top-tier mutual funds, as well as existing investors Domain Associates, MPM Capital, RusnanoMedInvest and Forward Ventures.

They're betting that entinostat, which is partnered with Merck's ($MRK) Keytruda in a combo study, could find a broad use in treating cancer.

"Over the past 12 to 18 months, there have been significant preclinical data generated by Syndax and leading researchers suggesting that entinostat, in addition to its own anti-cancer activity, may enhance the activity of immune checkpoint inhibitors," Morrison said in a statement. "Following the positive results from our Phase IIb clinical trial, ENCORE 301, entinostat received breakthrough therapy designation from the FDA in advanced HR+ breast cancer. Given these findings, Syndax has been steadily expanding its entinostat clinical development program, exploring its use as an immunotherapy in combination with a number of investigational and approved medicines. We are delighted that the investment community has confidence in Syndax and has endorsed our strategy to expand the scope of development for entinostat."

As of the first 9 months of 2014, according to its old S-1, the company had burned through $155 million to advance entinostat into a Phase III study for breast cancer with 600 patients. A second program for non-small cell lung cancer is not far behind. And Syndax is partnered with Kyowa Hakko Kirin in Asia, but still has a free hand in the U.S. and Europe.

- here's the release