UPDATED: Cancer biotech upstart nabs $33M A round for R&D work, Array collaboration

Three months after in-licensing a preclinical cancer drug from Array BioPharma ($ARRY), the upstart biotech Loxo Oncology announced that it has a $33 million Series A lined up to fund the work ahead. Aisling Capital, which founded the company, led the round with OrbiMed Advisors and an undisclosed investor.

"This funding allows us to advance our pipeline on multiple fronts," said Dr. Josh Bilenker, CEO of New York-based Loxo and a partner at Aisling. "Specifically, we expect to advance our lead product candidate through clinical proof of concept and a second program into the clinic."

The startup team is tackling a new drug from Array that targets an oncogenic activating mutation, a field that promises to deliver therapies targeted at specific patient subpopulations. And Loxo and Array will collaborate on a discovery program to develop a pipeline of new therapies.

The CEO has been careful about keeping the biotech's cards on specific targets close to his vest, but he's clear that through the FDA's embrace of breakthroughs and rapid advancements in cancer R&D strategies, Loxo can move fast.  

"Many of the most interesting cancer drugs are declaring themselves in Phase I or early Phase II," Bilenker tells FierceBiotech. "Now that we have breakthrough pathways at the FDA, the distinction of what is pivotal is a reflection of how big your effect size is. Life gets a lot easier when you see tumors shrinking, because you know exactly what the FDA is going to need and how much it's going to cost and the tumor types to pursue."

The company plans to keep the staff level in the single digits, he adds, relying on a group of expert consultants and a sizable number of researchers dedicated to the project at Array.

Here's the board: Steven Elms and Dr. Dov Goldstein, managing partner and partner at Aisling Capital, respectively; Dr. David Bonita, private equity partner at OrbiMed Advisors; and Dr. Keith Flaherty, director of the Henri and Belinda Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies at Massachusetts General Hospital. The biotech's science advisors include Harvard professor Jeffrey A. Engelman and Ben Ho Park of Johns Hopkins.

- here's the release

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