Blend banks $21M for its nano-assisted cancer drugs

Blend Therapeutics, a biotech with ties to MIT serial entrepreneur Robert Langer, has hauled in $21 million in new financing to flesh out a novel approach to cancer treatment.

Headquartered in Watertown, MA, Blend is at work on an early-stage therapy that marries the proven benefits of antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), designed to shuttle tumor-killing drugs to their desired targets, with nanoparticle technology that improves delivery. And the biotech's latest fundraise, a mix of equity and debt, will help it pay its way through preclinical development.

ADCs, which have been around for about 35 years, have notched some major successes in the clinic and on the market, using specifically targeted antibodies to dump cell-killing drugs on cancerous growths while sparing healthy tissues. However, getting high concentrations of such large molecules into solid tumors has proven difficult for many drug developers, Blend R&D chief Richard Wooster said, leading to the invention of shrunken-down antibodies that can better penetrate cancerous tissues. But those smaller agents have shorter half-lives than their bigger counterparts, Wooster said, leading to efficacy issues when they're swept out of the bloodstream before they can make a meaningful difference.

That's where Blend's platform, called Pentarin, stands out. The company's technology takes miniaturized biologic drug conjugates (mBDCs)--which are essentially scaled-down ADCs--and encapsulates them in a nanoparticle coating designed to stick around in the body, creating a hybrid treatment that can succeed where past therapies have failed. The result, Blend believes, is a novel class of cancer drugs.

The biotech's lead Pentarin program is BTP-277, which Wooster said has shown "very strong and exciting efficacy" in preclinical animal studies. The Blend expects to kick off IND-enabling studies before the middle of the year, clearing the way for clinical trials thereafter.

And beyond developing its top prospect, Blend has spent the last 18 months polishing up the Pentarin platform so that it can be engineered to home in on other antigens. In tandem with its latest fundraise, the company in-licensed some new targeting ligands that expand the applications for Pentarin, cofounder and Chairman Omid Farokhzad said, and Blend is in the midst of meetings with potential partners looking to cut in on the technology.

All of the biotech's previous investors, including New Enterprise Associates and Flagship Ventures, joined in on the latest fundraise. Outside of its Pentarin-focused plans, Blend is earmarking some of the funds for BTP-114, a platinum-based cancer treatment slated to start clinical trials in 2015.

- read the announcement

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