A Montreal biotech developer aiming to create “precision oncology” drugs that target cancerous tumours has secured US$82.5-million in financing from several U.S. and Canadian investors.
Repare Therapeutics Inc., led by veteran Montreal biotech executive Lloyd Segal and co-founded by research scientists from New York University and Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, announced the financing Wednesday. It is led by Cowen Healthcare Investments and fellow U.S. investors OrbiMed, Redmile, BVF Partners LP and Logos Capital. Early investors Versant Ventures and MPM Capital from the United States, as well as Canadian investors Fonds de solidarité FTQ and BDC Capital, which backed Repare’s initial US$68-million financing two years ago, also participated in the latest funding.
Repare is in the early stages of developing products that attack genetic defects in certain cancerous tumours, preventing the toxic cells from repairing their DNA. Other drug developers, including AstraZeneca PLC, are also developing similar types of molecules known as poly (ADP-ribose) polymerases, or PARP, inhibitors, adding to efforts by earlier developers in the field of oncology drugs that target cancerous cells.
The startup, which has most of its 50 employees in Montreal and its key oncology researchers in Cambridge, Mass., is aiming to get its lead molecule, which it calls RP-3500, into human clinical trials by next summer with 40 to 60 patients, and is working to follow suit with a second therapy several months later.
“Moving from the bench-top to the clinic is a huge milestone for a company like ours and we’ve accomplished that,” Mr. Segal said in an interview. He added the company expects to get initial data from its lead drug by the summer of 2021 and hopes to have approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as early as 2023 or 2024 “if all the moons and stars align.”
Versant managing director Jerel Davis said Repare’s latest financing and progress to date “puts the company in a very good position to go public in the next one to two years. It’s great to see this quality of capital coming into a Canadian company in a large round.”
Repare is one of several Canadian companies created, incubated and financed by San Francisco-based Versant, one of the most active foreign investors in Canada’s teeming biotech industry. The latest was Vancouver-based Chinook Therapeutics Inc., which announced last month that it had raised US$65-million from Versant and U.S. fund managers Samsara BioCapital and New York’s Apple Tree Partners to take its first two rare kidney disease drugs into clinical trials by 2021.
The Repare deal adds to what has been an active year for Canada’s biotechnology sector. Two developers – Clementia Pharmaceuticals Inc. (led by Mr. Segal’s wife, Clarissa Desjardins) and BlueRock Therapeutics – were taken over this year by foreign pharmaceutical firms in deals valuing each at US$1-billion, while publicly traded Zymeworks Inc., a Vancouver-based cancer therapy developer, in June sold US$200-million in new equity. Last month, the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association reported Canadian life-sciences companies raised $586-million over 55 deals in the first half of 2019 – more than in any similar period since 2012.
Canada’s biotech sector has recovered since foreign pharmaceutical companies downsized their research operations here early this decade. Drug giants have increasingly partnered with startups that do the risky development work on new drugs. Canada’s depth of research talent has drawn investors to proactively create and fund drug-development companies to serve that pipeline.