Azeria receives investment for cancer drug development

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Azeria Therapeutics Limited, a newly formed drug discovery company, has announced that it has successfully raised £4 million in Series A fundraising from the £70 million CRT Pioneer Fund, managed by Sixth Element Capital LLP (6EC), a UK based fund manager.

Azeria, a spin out created by Sixth Element Capital and Cancer Research UK’s commercial partnerships team, is the world’s first pioneer factor drug discovery company developing breakthrough treatments for hormone resistant breast and prostate cancer patients, where there are significant areas of unmet clinical need. The investment will be used to build on the discoveries made by founder Dr Jason Carroll, a world leading expert in pioneer factors in cancer at his lab at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute at the University of Cambridge.

Using its proprietary drug screening platform, Azeria is developing a pipeline of small molecules designed to selectively inhibit pioneer factors. Azeria is initially targeting the essential pioneer factor FOXA1, which has shown to be pivotal in the tumour development and maintenance of estrogen-receptor (ER) positive luminal breast cancer and is also thought to be critical in the development of prostate cancer.

Stephen Myatt, Chief Executive Officer of Azeria Therapeutics and Partner of Sixth Element Capital said: “Azeria is the product of more than 10 years of research by Dr Jason Carroll. Using the insights from this foundational research we aim to deliver therapies against pioneer factors, a completely new target class in oncology, which have a fundamental role in disease biology. We are now seeking to advance this innovative research rapidly towards clinical trials.”

Dr Jason Carroll, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Azeria Therapeutics added: “Estrogen receptors are the driving and defining transcription factor in 75% of breast cancers. Our research has shown for the first time that DNA interactions and transcriptional potential of ER depend on the pioneer factor FOXA1, which plays an essential role in determining tumor growth and progression even when resistance to existing drugs has developed. Through the application of our unique insights into pioneer factors, we aim to identify inhibitors against this novel class of drug targets in cancer, which until now have been considered undruggable.”

Dr Rob James, Chairman of Azeria Therapeutics, and Managing Partner of Sixth Element Capital said: “We are delighted to support the launch of Azeria and the work of Jason and his research group. This is one of the most exciting and differentiated approaches we have seen to treating breast and prostate cancer and sits well with our strategy of funding innovative science in order to bring new therapeutic products and technologies to market.

Dr Iain Foulkes, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of research and innovation, said: “Researchers are only just beginning to understand the mechanisms that underpin drug resistance in cancer and it’s exciting to see pioneering research by Cancer Research UK scientists being used to develop treatments to help tackle this widespread problem.”