CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aura Biosciences, a biotechnology company developing a new class of therapies to target and selectively destroy cancer cells using viral nanoparticle conjugates, announced today that it closed a $30 million Series C financing. New investors Lundbeckfonden Ventures and Arix Bioscience plc led the round, with all current investors also participating. Existing investors include Advent Life Sciences, Chiesi Ventures, Ysios Capital, Alexandria Venture Investments, Columbus Venture Partners, LI-COR Biosciences and several individual investors, including the estate of Henri Termeer.
With interim positive data released at the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) 2017 Annual Meeting in November for its Phase 1b/2 clinical trial for light-activated AU-011, the company plans to use proceeds from this round of financing to expand infrastructure supporting ongoing clinical development. Aura intends to continue enrolling patients who have early-stage ocular melanoma in its Phase 1b/2 study of AU-011, the first targeted therapy ever to be developed for the primary treatment of this rare and life-threatening eye cancer. This novel therapy has the potential to selectively destroy cancer cells in the eye while preserving vision. Aura is also expanding in 2018 its footprint in Cambridge, Mass., with the addition of new employees, space and equipment.
“This year has been one of incredible momentum for Aura, with interim positive data reported from our Phase 1b/2 study of AU-011 and enthusiasm from key opinion leaders in ocular oncology across the country,” said Elisabet de los Pinos, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Aura. “We are pleased to enter 2018 with the renewed support of existing investors and to welcome Lundbeckfonden Ventures and Arix Bioscience to our Series C syndicate. We look forward this year to laying the groundwork for Phase 3 clinical development, furthering our commitment to enabling earlier treatment intervention for patients with ocular melanoma.”
“The Aura team has proven nimble while retaining a strong scientific rigor as it has made the transition to a clinical-stage company,” said Casper Breum, Senior Partner at Lundbeckfonden Ventures.
“We believe that this timely investment will propel the company’s preparations for late-stage studies of AU-011, with the potential to provide a safe and effective therapy where plaque radiation or enucleation are the only options currently,” said Mark Chin, Investment Director at Arix Bioscience.
With the close of this financing, Breum and Chin will join Alan Walts, Ph.D., Joël Jean-Mairet, Ph.D., Dale Pfost, Ph.D., Arthur Pappas and Dr. de los Pinos as members of Aura’s Board of Directors.
About ocular melanoma
Ocular melanoma, also known as uveal or choroidal melanoma, is a rare and aggressive eye cancer. Ocular melanoma is the most common primary ocular tumor and develops in the uveal tract of the eye. No targeted therapies are available at present, and current radiotherapy treatments can be associated with severe visual loss and other long-term sequelae such as dry eye, glaucoma, cataracts and radiation retinopathy. The most common current treatment is plaque radiotherapy, which involves surgical placement of a radiation device against the exterior of the eye over the tumor. This technique can control the melanoma but can also lead to radiation-related cataract, retinopathy, optic nerve damage and loss of vision. The alternative is enucleation, or removal of the eye. Ocular melanoma metastasizes to the liver in about 40 percent of cases in the long term (source: OMF), and only 10 to 15 percent of patients whose melanoma has metastasized survive beyond five years after diagnosis (source: ACS).
About light-activated AU-011
AU-011 is a first-in-class targeted therapy in development for the primary treatment of ocular melanoma. The therapy consists of patented viral nanoparticle conjugates with IR-700DX dye molecules that are activated with an ophthalmic laser. The viral nanoparticles bind selectively to unique receptors on cancer cells in the eye and are derived from technology originally pioneered by Dr. John Schiller of the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), recipient of the 2017 Lasker-DeBakey Award. The IR-700DX dye molecules are produced by LI-COR Biosciences and are licensed exclusively to Aura for treating ocular cancers. Upon activation with an ophthalmic laser, the drug rapidly and specifically disrupts the membranes of tumor cells while sparing key eye structures, which may allow for the potential of preserving patients’ vision and reducing other long-term complications of treatment. This therapy can be delivered using equipment commonly found in the ophthalmologist’s office and does not require a surgical procedure, pointing to a potentially less invasive, more convenient therapy for patients and physicians. AU-011 for ocular melanoma has been granted orphan drug and fast track designations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is currently in clinical development.
About Aura Biosciences
Aura Biosciences is developing a new class of therapies to selectively target and destroy cancer cells. Its lead program, AU-011 in ocular melanoma, is being developed under a CRADA with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health. For more information, visit www.aurabiosciences.com.
About Lundbeckfonden Ventures
Lundbeckfonden Ventures is a part of the asset management subsidiary of The Lundbeck Foundation, which in addition to substantial financial assets, has controlling ownerships in H. Lundbeck A/S, ALK-Abelló A/S and Falck A/S. Lundbeckfonden Ventures has an evergreen structure and invests around $60 million annually in life science companies. The Lundbeckfonden Ventures team is located in Copenhagen, Denmark, and is active in both Europe and USA.
About Arix Bioscience plc
Arix Bioscience plc is a global healthcare and life science company supporting medical innovation. Headquartered in London and with an office in New York, Arix Bioscience sources, finances and builds world class healthcare and life science businesses addressing medical innovation at all stages of development. Operations are supported by privileged access to breakthrough academic science and strategic relationships with leading research accelerators and global pharmaceutical companies.
Arix Bioscience plc is listed on the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange.
For further information, please visit www.arixbioscience.com.
About Advent Life Sciences
Advent Life Sciences is one of Europe’s leading venture teams investing in life sciences businesses. The team consists of professionals with extensive scientific, medical and operational experience, and a long-standing track record of entrepreneurial and investment success across the UK, Europe and the US. The firm invests in a range of sectors within life sciences, principally in new drug discovery, enabling technologies and med tech. Realizations in the last three years include Algeta, Avila, CN Creative, EUSA and Micromet. Current investments include Acutus, Biocartis, Cellnovo, f2G, NeRRe, and Versartis. For more information, please visit www.adventls.com.
About Chiesi Ventures
Chiesi Ventures is a venture capital firm focused on the area of rare and orphan disorders. Our goal is to complement the strategic interest of the Chiesi Group by investing in early stage development opportunities. Chiesi Ventures also aim to accelerate the expansion of the Chiesi network in the US among universities, venture capital investors, rare disease patient organizations and entrepreneurial companies developing treatments for rare diseases. For more information, please visit www.chiesiventures.com.
About Ysios Capital
Ysios Capital is a leading Spanish venture capital firm that provides private equity financing to early- and mid-stage human healthcare and life science companies with a special focus on pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and medical devices. Founded in 2008, Ysios Capital has €118 million in assets under management distributed over two funds. The second fund has a target size of €100 million and will remain open to new investors until September 2015. For further information see www.ysioscapital.com.
About Alexandria Venture Investments
Alexandria Venture Investments is the strategic venture capital arm of Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. (NYSE: ARE). Founded in 1994, Alexandria is the largest and leading investment-grade real estate investment trust (REIT) focused principally on owning, operating, and developing high-quality, sustainable real estate for the broad and diverse life science and technology industries. In 1996, Alexandria founded Alexandria Venture Investments to actively invest at the cutting edge of novel, breakthrough discoveries in biopharmaceuticals, diagnostics, research tools, medical devices, digital health, and technology. Alexandria is uniquely positioned to fund life science and advanced technology companies based on its experience and in-depth understanding of these industries, its long-term relationships with leading investors, and its world-class international scientific advisory network. For more information, please visit www.are.com.
About LI-COR Biosciences
LI-COR Biosciences is a leading manufacturer of near-infrared and chemiluminescence imaging platforms, analysis software, and IRDye® infrared dye reagents for drug discovery, life science research, and pre-clinical imaging. Founded in 1971, the privately held company is based in Lincoln, Nebraska.