Aduro bags $51M for its 'breakthrough' cancer combo

Berkeley, CA's Aduro Biotech pulled in $51.4 million in Series D cash, fattening its wallet as the company works through mid-stage trials with a promising immuno-oncology pairing.

The funds, courtesy of new investors including OrbiMed, bring Aduro's 2014 venture haul up to $106.4 million. The majority of that money is earmarked for CRS-207 and GVAX, two immunotherapies designed to battle pancreatic cancer in tandem. The combination won the FDA's coveted breakthrough-therapy designation in July, guaranteeing Aduro a speedy review and access to senior agency staff as it works through the regulatory process.

The treatments are now in the midst of a Phase IIb trial with 240 patients in three treatment arms: one receiving the combination treatment, one taking CRS-207 alone and another on standard chemotherapy. The study's primary endpoint is overall survival, and Aduro hopes it'll back up the safety, immune response and efficacy CRS-207 and GVAX have demonstrated thus far.

The biotech's latest fundraise caps a transformative year for Aduro, a 2014 Fierce 15 honoree. In addition to the breakthrough victory, Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Janssen R&D unit signed on to use the biotech's Listeria-based immunotherapy development platform to churn out some candidates of its own and licensed the GVAX technology for prostate cancer, agreements that could bring in more than $1 billion for Aduro. J&J also pitched on the $55 million funding round Aduro closed in June.

Stephen Isaacs

"2014 was a watershed year for Aduro and this financing demonstrates investor confidence in our future," CEO Stephen Isaacs said in a statement. "Our accomplishments during the year ... have positioned us well to achieve our goal of providing patients with more effective and more tolerable alternatives to treat cancer."

CRS-207 is a treatment derived from live Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, engineered to express the tumor-associated antigen mesothelin which spurs the immune system to deploy T cells and attack cancer. GVAX, originally developed by BioSante, has found new life as partner to CRS-207.

Behind its lead program, Aduro is working through Phase I study with a combination of CRS-207 and chemotherapy to treat mesothelioma, and the company has completed preclinical work on ADU-214 for ovarian and non-small cell lung cancers.

- read the statement

Special Reports: FierceBiotech's 2014 Fierce 15 - Aduro