Syncona Ltd (LON: SYNC) has today announced a new portfolio company, Azeria Therapeutics in a £32 million Series B financing in which Syncona has committed £29.5 million alongside existing investor the CRT Pioneer Fund. Syncona will have a 61 per cent ownership stake at the point full current commitments are invested, with Syncona’s investment in the business having a holding value of £6.5 million following the first tranche of the Series B commitment
Azeria was originally founded in 2017 by Sixth Element Capital, manager of the CRT Pioneer Fund and Cancer Research UK’s Commercial Partnerships team, with the aim of building a world class pioneer factor oncology company, developing breakthrough treatments for hormone resistant breast cancer patients. It was based on the work of leading expert in the field, Professor Jason Carroll at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, University of Cambridge, UK, whose scientific insights have led to a new approach to target FOXA1 driven cancers.
FOXA1 is an essential pioneer factor which has been shown to be pivotal in the tumour growth, progression and maintenance of oestrogen receptor positive luminal breast cancer. This is an area of significant unmet patient need where approximately 30 per cent of patients progress to late stage endocrine resistant disease and where there is potential for new treatments to have significant impacts for patients not addressed by existing therapeutics. Extensive target validation and drug discovery work to date supports the lead programme, with a plan to take the programme into the clinic over the course of the Series B funding. Azeria is seeking to develop the programme to commercialisation and to explore a pipeline of further programmes in oncology.
Azeria received initial investment of £5.5 million in Series A financing from the CRT Pioneer Fund, which focuses on early stage investments in highly innovative oncology programmes. Syncona is the largest investor in the CRT Pioneer Fund (64 per cent of the fund) and will now participate directly in the next stage of growth and development. Magda Jonikas and Martin Murphy of Syncona will now join the Board of Azeria.
Magda Jonikas, Partner of Syncona Investment Management Limited, said:
“This is an exciting opportunity to build a world class oncology company, starting with oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer which is an area of significant unmet need for patients. We are looking forward to working in partnership with management as Azeria seeks to develop its lead programme and explore further programmes in oncology.”
Martin Murphy, Chief Executive of Syncona Investment Management Limited, said:
“Azeria is an exciting company and a perfect fit for Syncona’s long term strategy building globally leading healthcare companies. Based on unique, proprietary scientific insight, with a world class academic founder and high-quality team, the company has an opportunity to develop and commercialise treatments which could make a significant difference for patients. The Sixth Element team did an excellent job in identifying and investing in this science to take it to the point where it became an exciting and appropriate opportunity for Syncona.”
Stephen Myatt, Chief Executive Officer of Azeria Therapeutics said:
“Azeria is the product of more than ten years of research by Professor Jason Carroll at Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Institute, University of Cambridge and was created to accelerate research and development into pioneer factors, a completely new target class in oncology including FOXA1. We would like to thank Sixth Element Capital for their continued support and look forward to working closely with Syncona to accelerate the development of breakthrough treatments for hormone resistant breast cancer patients.”