Novo and NEA back a $37M round for a biotech focused on cancer side effects

Novo Nordisk's Thomas Dyrberg

Pennsylvania's Galera Therapeutics closed a $37 million Series B financing to advance its treatment for a common side effect of radiation therapy, bringing some big-name investors to the table.

Novo Ventures, owned by Novo Nordisk ($NVO), led the round, joined by previous backers New Enterprise Associates, Novartis ($NVS) Venture Fund and Correlation Ventures.

With the cash, Galera is pushing forward with GC4419, a treatment designed to prevent oral mucositis, or OM, in patients with head and neck cancer undergoing chemoradiation. Severe OM occurs in as many as 80% of head and neck cancer patients treated with radiation, the company said, leading to dangerous infections and potential delays in the chemo process.

The drug demonstrated proof of concept in a Phase IIa trial presented earlier this year, Galera said, and the biotech is now preparing for a randomized Phase IIb study to move it forward. There are no approved treatments for severe OM related to head and neck cancer, the company said.

GC4419 works by modulating the body's oxygen metabolic pathways, targeting the superoxide pathway to speed up the production of hydrogen peroxide. The drug is one of many so-called dismutase mimetics in Galera's pipeline, using a platform technology the company believes could have applications in cancer, inflammation, fibrosis and mitochondrial disease.

The drug's promise in OM, plus the overall potential of Galera's technology, brought Novo into the fold. And Novo managing partner Thomas Dyrberg is now taking a seat on the biotech's board.

"We are excited about the potential for GC4419 to address this problem and become an essential part of standard therapy for these patients; and we look forward to partnering with the Galera team to advance this unique class of drugs," Dyrberg said in a statement.

Galera raised an $11 million A round in late 2012, led by NEA.

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