Tyra Biosciences takes aim at treatment-resistant tumors with $50M raise

Targeted therapies have changed the face of treatment for many cancers, such as those with EGFR or ALK mutations. But over time, tumors rewire themselves to find a way around these therapies and continue to grow without relying on proteins made by the mutated gene. 

Tyra Biosciences is taking aim at this rewiring, called acquired resistance, banking $50 million in its series A round to get on its way. The Carlsbad, California-based biotech will develop a pipeline of “very specific” small molecules to target drug-resistant cancer cells. 

“Acquired resistance has a connotation that is a little bit more specific than just relapse more broadly,” Todd Harris, Tyra’s CEO and co-founder, told FierceBiotech. “We talk about it in the context of targeted therapies. When tumors resist targeted therapies, there is often a really specific molecular driver or event that has occurred to induce that resistance.” 

RELATED: Two-pronged attack against lung cancer could overcome EGFR drug resistance

Tyra is zeroing in on those drivers to come up with new drugs that work against the mutated, or resistant, form of a protein, as well as the original form of the protein against which targeted drugs were made, Harris said. It’s doing so with a team of experienced drug hunters and advisers who have collectively brought more than 20 compounds into the clinic, he said. 

They will have many leads to chase. In addition to resistance-driving signaling pathways Tyra already knows about, more are turning up all the time. 

"Insights are emerging in real time … On a yearly, if not monthly basis, we are learning more about mutations popping up in patients in the clinic that need to be addressed,” Harris said. 

The funding, from Alta Partners, RA Capital, Boxer Capital of Tavistock Group and Canaan Partners, will support the company through a “near-term value inflection point,” Harris said. 

“We’re not describing specific dates yet, but the amount of capital certainly gives us runway to take our first drug all the way through into patients and into proof-of-concept studies to validate it,” he said.