Celgene helps push the startup raise at I/O player FLX to $79M

T cell
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A little over a year ago Bristol-Myers Squibb paid a whopping $800 million upfront to gain a preclinical IDO1 immunotherapy through its acquisition of Flexus in San Carlos, CA, adding a $425 million sweetener in milestones. Now FLX, which took some remaining therapeutic assets and spun out into a successor company, has added a $50 million round to fuel its next step in the clinic, bringing its total raise to date to $79 million.

The restart team at FLX already has a Phase I clinical compound, FLX925--a FLT3 and CDK4/6 inhibitor which was in-licensed from Amgen--in a proof-of-concept study in patients with acute myeloid leukemia. The Column Group, Topspin Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) and Celgene all pitched in on the round.

Last summer the company’s founders wooed Brian Wong in from Five Prime, where he had been senior vice president of research and immuno-oncology, to take the helm as CEO. William Ho came in as chief medical officer.

Together the new team has also been working on small molecule inhibitors that target immunosuppressive cells, including regulatory T cells (Tregs).

Bristol-Myers’ $1.25 billion deal to acquire Flexus not long after the biotech got started helped establish some high-flying valuations in the immuno-oncology field, where the leading companies are investing heavily to follow up on its early successes. And new entries like FLX have been able to push rapidly ahead into the clinic, aiming at cutting years out of the traditional development path for new cancer therapies.

- here's the release