Cancer drug pioneer nets record funding

NuCana will use new financing to devlop anti-cancer medicines. Picture: AP
NuCana will use new financing to devlop anti-cancer medicines. Picture: AP
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A MEDICAL company has secured a $57 million (£34m) package of support led by a Californian venture capital fund in the biggest ever private investment in a Scottish life sciences business.

NuCana, based in Edinburgh, will use the financing to fund the development of its portfolio of anti-cancer medicines.

The deal was led by new investor, venture capital firm Sofinnova Ventures, supported by substantial investments from other existing investors. They include largest shareholder, Paris-based Sofinnova Partners, Morningside Ventures, Alida Capital International and the Scottish Investment Bank, the investment arm of Scottish Enterprise.

Hugh Griffith, chief executive and co-founder of the company, said: “This financing round is a major endorsement of NuCana.

“With strong support from both new and current investors, and our potential breakthrough therapies, we aim to dramatically improve the treatment options for many patients with cancer.”

The funds will be used to expand the clinical programme for NuCana’s lead product, Acelarin, which has shown exceptional results in patients with a range of cancers that were resistant to all conventional therapies.

Acelarin will be developed initially for patients with pancreatic, biliary, lung and ovarian cancers. The firm also plans to bring a second line of its key drug into the clinic later this year.

NuCana has exclusive worldwide rights to the pioneering ProTide technology which creates compounds that bypass key resistance mechanisms associated with anti-cancer drugs.

Rafaèle Tordjman, managing partner at Sofinnova Partners and a NuCana board member, said: “The ProTide technology has already been shown to be highly effective for the treatment of HCV and HIV infection, and now NuCana is achieving similar benefits in patients with advanced ­cancer.”

She added: “We are delighted to team up once again with our US colleagues Sofinnova Ventures, and together contribute to building a strong company on the basis of world-class science and a talented management team.”

Sofinnova Ventures has offices in Menlo Park and La ­Jolla in California, and also in Dublin. It has more than 40 years’ experience building healthcare companies into market leaders. It has committed $1.4 billion to take companies from inception to exit.

James Healy, the firm’s general partner, said: “We are excited to be working with the company’s experienced leadership team to develop their breakthrough ProTide technology and improve treatment options and outcomes for cancer patients.”

Healy and Gerald Chan, co-founder and chairman of Morningside Ventures, founded in 1986 by the Chan family of Hong Kong, will join the board of NuCana.