The MS Ventures drug development incubator founded in Yavne by Merck KGaA Germany has nurtured its first startup to maturity: Israeli cancer metabolism company Metabomed has completed an $18 million Series A financing round. In addition to MS Ventures itself, investors include Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF), Pontifax Fund, and the Technion Research and Development Foundation. New investors Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) and Arkin Holdings also joined the round. In its previous financing round the company raised $5 million.
Metabomed was co-founded by MS Ventures and three leading researchers in the field of cancer metabolism and computational biology -- Prof. Eyal Gottlieb from the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow, UK, Prof. Eytan Ruppin from Tel Aviv University and the University of Maryland, and Prof. Tomer Shlomi from the Technion Israel Institute of Technology.
Metabomed is focusing on the discovery and development of potential small molecule drugs directed against novel targets in the field of cancer metabolism. Based on its proprietary interdisciplinary target identification platform, Metabomed utilizes a unique approach to discovery, which allows the company to potentially identify new targets that form a synthetic lethal gene pair with metabolic genes inactivated in cancer cells. By inhibiting these targets, Metabomed intends to develop more selective anti-cancer drugs that may potentially be highly targeted, and therefore sparing of normal cells.
Following the completion of this round, Dr. Simone Botti, current Head of the MS Ventures Israel BioIncubator, will leave his position in order to join Metabomed as its full-time CEO.
Dr. Botti said, "Cancer cells proliferate quickly but to let them multiply quickly they must undergo changes that let them develop and multiply. It's similar to if two cities start out identical the regular New York and cancerous New York."
He added, "In the regular New York life carries on due to its transportation system. In the fast multiplying cancerous New York things are moving so quickly that some of the stations have already collapsed and closed. Now there is one station in the cancerous New York that if we identify it and close it then the city can no longer carry on. But in the regular New York in contrast there are no problems and it would continue to operate even if we closed down that one same station. We call this effect “synthetic lethality”. Only when these two things are found together, is the treatment lethal, therefore it is specific to cancer cells."
Dr. Botti explains that the concept of intervening in the mechanism allowing the cancer cell to multiply swiftly is one of the exciting fronts of cancer treatment and is called cancer metabolism.
The MS Ventures incubator current houses three companies and is looking for a new CEO. Merck has already allocated €10 million for new projects.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on April 4, 2016
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