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Raising metabolism

Why immuno-metabolism is the next white space area of cancer immunotherapy

In the wake of the failure of ECHO-301, drug developers are asking whether the trial design or the target is at fault. But while the value of IDO1 as a target is still in doubt, the result has done little to dampen enthusiasm among immuno-oncologists for the idea of interrupting metabolic pathways to treat cancer.

Cancer metabolism has long been a focus in oncology, but innovators have recently turned to new ways of blocking metabolic processes related to immunosuppression in the tumor microenvironment.

Last month, two newcos emerged with immuno-metabolism-based platforms. Dracen Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced on March 20 a $40 million series A round led by Deerfield Management to develop glutamine antagonists to treat cancer. Two days later, Third Rock Ventures brought Rheos Medicines Inc. out of stealth mode with a $60 million A round, with an immuno-metabolism platform for autoimmune diseases and cancer.

In the last three years, at least seven companies have been launched with single assets or platforms based on blocking immuno-metabolism in cancer, raising a total of over $515 million in venture and $138 million in public financing (see “Cancer Immuno-metabolism Newcos”).

Table: Cancer immuno-metabolism newcos

Since the start of 2015, at least seven new companies have been formed with therapeutic programs for cancer immuno-metabolism targets or with platforms to identify new targets and compounds. The targets fall into four main metabolic pathways: the adenosine, glutamine, indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO; INDO) and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) pathways. All disclosed funding is from venture rounds with the exception of Arcus Biosciences Inc. (NYSE:RCUS), which raised $138 million in an IPO in March. Source: BCIQ: BioCentury Online Intelligence, company websites

CompanyPathwayTargetStatusRaised ($M)Founded
Arcus Biosciences Inc. (NYSE:RCUS)Adenosine Adenosine A2A receptor (ADORA2A); ADORA2BPh I$364.72015
Ecto-5'-nucleotidase (CD73; NT5E)Preclin
Ideaya Biosciences Inc.IDO

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