Swiss biotech OncoEthix snags $19M round to back leukemia drug study

Switzerland's OncoEthix has raised $19 million in venture cash to back its work on an early-stage cancer treatment, one of a new class of oncology drugs that's been inspiring a range of new clinical trials. SV Life Sciences (SVLS) led the Series B, joined by new investor Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners and assisted by Index Ventures and Endeavour Vision, which helped raise the biotech's total to $30 million.

The investors are supporting an ongoing, two-step Phase I trial for OTX015, an oral small molecule which targets BET bromodomain proteins 2/3/4. The drug was in-licensed in the spring of 2012 from Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma after the Japanese company completed an early-stage trial of its own.

Investigators have been concentrating on a group of bromodomain proteins that play a key role in cancer. These new inhibitors are being tested to see whether they can trigger cancer cell death. And they have potential in a range of cancers. Last fall Constellation Pharmaceuticals partnered with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society on a BET inhibitor for blood, bone marrow or lymph-node-related cancers.

According to the company's website, OncoEthix was founded by Dr. Esteban Cvitkovic, Kay Noel, Yves Paternot, and Dr. Patrice Herait (all former associates at Cvitkovic & Associes Consultants SA) to develop a portfolio of 3 to 5 new cancer drugs. They plan to advance these drugs through proof-of-concept and then license them out to pharma partners.

"OncoEthix is focused on developing first-in-class drugs that can improve and extend the lives of patients with neoplastic diseases," said Kate Bingham, managing partner at SVLS. "OTX015 has made excellent progress so far and we believe that it has the potential to be a very important new drug."

- here's the press release