Ambit Biosciences finds $50M more from VCs as leukemia therapy advances

Venture investors have loosened their purse strings yet again for Ambit Biosciences. The San Diego-based biotech scored $25 million of a $50 million round with the primary purpose of funding development of its lead candidate for treating acute myeloid leukemia. The round comes ahead of the company's anticipated unveiling of data from a mid-stage trial of the compound next month at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting in Atlanta.

OrbiMed Advisors, a previous Ambit backer and active biotech investor, has led the latest round of financing with help from other prior supporters--Aisling Capital, Apposite Healthcare, GIMV, GrowthWorks, Forward Ventures, MedImmune Ventures, Radius Ventures and Roche Ventures. Ambit's venture backers also replenished its coffers last year with a $30 million round that came on the heels of its canceled initial public offering which the company hoped would bring in up to $86 million.

The financing bodes well for Ambit as the biotech prepares to unveil final results at ASH from its Phase II study of its lead drug, quizartinib, for patients with relapsed or refractory forms of AML--which is one of the most common forms of leukemia but can be tricky to defeat with current meds. The company's trial involved 333 patients whose cancer relapsed after first-line chemotherapy or persisted despite treatment with second-line chemotherapy or hematopoietic stem cell transplants. The compound is an FMS-like tyrosine kinase-3 inhibitor with activity against about a quarter of AML cases with mutations in the FLT3 genes.

"2012 has been a pivotal year of progress for Ambit, and this financing is a reflection of that progress and the momentum we have built as a team," said Michael Martino, Ambit's president and CEO, in a statement. "We've received the data from our large, 333 patient Phase 2 trial of quizartinib in patients with relapsed/refractory AML, and we are excited to present that data at ASH in Atlanta in December. We've refocused and prioritized our work on earlier stage pipeline assets, including our oral JAK2 and CSF1R inhibitor programs, and re-energized the team."

The fresh round of financing gives Ambit (a 2006 Fierce 15 company) some additional cash runway as it gears up for additional study of quizartinib with partner Astellas in 2013.

- here's the release

Special Report: Ambit Biosciences - 2006 Fierce 15