Syros hauls in $53M to disrupt cancer's genetic roots

Watertown, MA's Syros Pharmaceuticals has banked a massive $53 million Series B to support its innovative approach to treating cancer, targeting the genetic switches responsible for tumor growth.

The new funds come on the heels of a $30 million A round closed last year, bringing in new investors Polaris Partners, Aisling Capital and Redmile Group alongside repeat backers Flagship Ventures, Arch Venture Partners, WuXi PharmaTech ($WX) and Alexandria Venture Investments.

With the cash, Syros plans to flesh out the potential of some cutting-edge science that could be key to new cancer therapies. MIT professor and Syros co-founder Richard Young led the discovery of what the company calls super-enhancers, regions of DNA that dictate a cell's identity by controlling the expression of various genes, including those tied to cancer. The biotech has proprietary technology that allows it to peer in on super-enhancers and modulate their behavior, disrupting the machinery of gene control and potentially stamping out tumor cells.

And while it's still early days for Syros' clinical ambitions, the biotech has amassed what it says is the largest collection of gene regulatory circuits, creating an annotated map of super-enhancers and the processes they govern. That allows its investigators to rapidly spotlight new gene control targets and craft small-molecule therapies to treat them, Syros said, setting the stage for a pipeline of therapies beyond oncology.

Syros CEO Nancy Simonian

"This financing is a strong endorsement of the value that Syros is creating and the progress we have made in the 18 months since our launch," CEO Nancy Simonian said in a statement. "... We are well positioned to broadly leverage the transformative potential of our gene control platform in oncology and other therapeutic areas, to advance our first program into the clinic in a molecularly defined patient population, and to build a deep pipeline of novel product candidates to benefit patients."

Simonian, a veteran of Millennium and the team behind its blockbuster myeloma therapy Velcade, came aboard Syros last year, allured by the company's technology and the pedigree of its founders. Alongside Young, the Syros team includes Harvard Medical School's Jay Bradner and Nathaneal Gray, plus a board including Nobel Laureate Phil Sharp, the Whitehead Institute's Richard Young and Moderna Therapeutics CEO Stéphane Bancel.

- read the announcement