MedImmune leads $12.5M round for new drug aimed at big chemo market

MedImmune's venture arm has jumped in to lead a $12.5 million round for a Chapel Hill, NC-based startup that is working on a new drug to treat a common ailment spurred by chemotherapy. G1 Therapeutics, which was initially seeded by Hatteras Venture Partners to the tune of $600,000, says that the new funds will finance its IND work and point the company to proof-of-concept data on a drug designed to protect against myelosuppression--the loss of blood cells--during chemo. Hatteras Venture Partners and Mountain Group Capital contributed to the round.

G1 was founded on the work of Norman Sharpless at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and Kwok-Kin Wong at Harvard Medical School. They concluded that a cyclin-dependent kinase 4/6 inhibitor could play a big role in protecting the bone marrow of chemo patients.

This is by no means the only program for a CDK 4/6 inhibitor. Pfizer's ($PFE) palbociclib, one of the biggest drug hopefuls in the Big Pharma's pipeline, works on the same mechanism of action. That drug has produced promising data indicating that it has potential to shrink tumors.

Christy Shaffer, executive chair of G1 and venture partner at Hatteras

But Christy Shaffer, the executive chair of G1 and a venture partner at Hatteras, tells FierceBiotech that the startup's lead treatment is specifically designed to quickly switch on and off to protect against myelosuppression during chemo rounds, a unique marketing niche that will help distinguish the program from others in the same field. That therapy should be in the clinic next year. There are other programs that could be used to target cancer tumors that the company will also be working on.

G1 President Jay Strum says the semi-virtual company currently has three fulltime staffers and works with a group of 17 consultants, a popular structure for up-and-coming biotechs looking to get started on a lean budget. Hatteras founded the company out of its latest $125 million fund, says Shaffer, the former chief at Inspire Pharmaceuticals. She is managing director of Hatteras Discovery, which is handling the seed investments for startups.

In addition to the venture funding, G1 has nabbed several government grants, including a National Cancer Institute Fast Track Grant in 2012 for its lead potential indication. The biotech also grabbed early funding from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and the University of North Carolina's Kickstart Program.

- here's the press release

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