The latest early-stage venture capital mega round has gone to one of a growing crop of companies exploring “undruggable” drug targets.
San Mateo, California-based Kronos Bio said Thursday that it had closed a $105 million Series A funding round, led by Vida Ventures and Omega Funds. Other firms that participated included Nextech, GV, Perceptive Advisors, Invus and Polaris Partners. Kronos CEO Norbert Bischofberger, a veteran of Gilead Sciences, also participated, as did board members Arie Belldegrun – founder of CAR-T company Kite Pharma, which Gilead acquired in 2017 – and John Martin.
The company is part of the portfolio of New York-based venture capital firm Two River, whose portfolio also includes Allogene Therapeutics, led by Belldegrun and fellow Kite alumnus David Chang.
Kronos’ platform is called Small Molecule Microarray, or SMM. The company describes it as ideally suited for rapid discovery of compounds that can modulate or degrade historically undruggable targets like transcription factors. Its pipeline page currently lists four programs: MYC/androgen receptor related cofactor, in preclinical development; along with transcription factors and oncoproteins and novel E3 ligases, in the discovery stage.
“This financing will help us advance two preclinical programs built upon hits identified from SMM screens, accelerate our research and further expand the Kronos team in the Boston and San Francisco areas,” Bischofberger said in a statement. The company maintains its research lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “We seek to challenge the historic belief that certain targets cannot be pursued. Our goal is to unlock new therapeutic approaches and bring treatments to areas of high unmet need.”
Several firms have been pursuing various “undruggable” targets, and some have drawn significant attention from investors. Last week, Redwood City, California-based Revolution Medicines closed a $100 million Series C equity financing that it plans to use to explore drugs to go after elusive targets like RAS in cancers. Late last month, another company, South San Francisco, California-based Frontier Medicines launched with a $67 million Series A round, with similar goals in mind. The biggest breakthrough so far has come from Amgen, which presented data at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting last month on AMG 510, a drug that hits the KRAS G12C pathway, one of the RAS targets.
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