Cleave Biosciences has raised $10 million in an extension of its Series A financing from new investor New Enterprise Associates (NEA), bringing its Series A total to $54 million. In conjunction with the financing, NEA partner Robert Garland, M.D., has joined Cleave's board of directors.
In the fall of 2011, Cleave raised $44 million from U.S. Venture Partners, 5AM Ventures, Clarus Ventures, OrbiMed Advisors, Astellas Venture Management and Osage University Partners to fund the biopharmaceutical company's cancer drug discovery and development.
Cleave will use the funds to move its lead program into clinical trials and advance its second discovery program. Cleave is discovering novel drugs that affect protein degradation pathways. Cancer cells frequently make an excess of proteins and hence become dependent on protein degradation for their survival. By attacking key targets in these pathways, cancer cells fail to balance this excess protein synthesis with protein degradation and can no longer survive.
"The targets Cleave is pursuing have the potential to have wide therapeutic impact for people who have cancers dependent on protein degradation for their survival," said Laura Shawver, Ph.D., CEO of Cleave Biosciences. "NEA joins us at an exciting time as we continue our progress to identify clinical candidates, as well as determine which subsets of cancers can best be addressed using the Cleave strategy."
Cleave's lead program is discovering small molecules that target p97, a central player in the ubiquitin proteasome and autophagy pathways that are intimately involved in controlling protein degradation. Targeting protein degradation has been validated by the commercial success of Velcade (bortezomib) and Kyprolis (carfilzomib) in multiple myeloma. P97 inhibition is a novel approach that has the potential to treat a wide range of cancers.
"Cleave Biosciences has made substantial progress in identifying and optimizing small molecules against a number of novel targets and is progressing its lead program toward the clinic," said Garland. "We are pleased to join Cleave's investor syndicate to help fuel the company's momentum."