Accelerator’s ApoGen nets new biochem leaders, plus an additional $4M to target cancer resistance | Digital Science

ApoGen Biotechnologies has brought on Chrysalis Therapeutics founder Stephen Gwaltney, Ph.D., to be its VP of chemistry, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Peter de Vries, Ph.D., as senior director of biology.

The Accelerator Life Partners-backed startup also raised an $4 million in an extended series A round that was first announced nearly two years ago—including new money from M Ventures, the VC arm of Merck KGaA, and its previous investors—bringing its fundraising total up to $11 million as it pursues targets in cancer drug resistance.

Previously, Gwaltney served as VP of chemistry at Global Blood Therapeutics, as well as director of chemistry at Takeda San Diego. He was also a project leader for the DPP4 program at Syrrx, which helped discover alogliptin, a type 2 diabetes drug now marketed as Nesina and Vipidia.

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De Vries, meanwhile, was most recently strategic director at Fred Hutch, after serving as director of cancer biology and pharmacology at Cascadian Therapeutics, senior commercialization officer in the vaccine development program at the global nonprofit PATH, and associate director of biology at Acylin Therapeutics. He was also principal and founder of Broadview Biotech Consulting and served as a new ventures mentor at the University of Washington Center for Commercialization.

In December 2016, Accelerator announced a $7 million series A round (PDF), with participation from AbbVie Ventures, Eli Lilly and Company, Johnson & Johnson Innovation and WuXi AppTec's Corporate Venture Fund, as well as Alexandria Venture Investments, ARCH Venture Partners, Watson Fund and WRF Capital.

The company plans to use the additional money to hire more staff and establish a laboratory in Seattle.

Based on discoveries made at the University of Minnesota, ApoGen's initial small-molecule inhibitor efforts focus on an antiviral component of the human innate immune system, APOBEC cytidine deaminase enzymes, which have been linked to mutations through the cancer genome and can lead to development of resistance to cancer therapies.

“Drug resistance is a critical obstacle to achieving optimum outcomes for cancer patients, and new approaches to overcoming this resistance would create significant clinical and commercial value,” said Keno Gutierrez, Ph.D., an investment director at M Ventures who joined ApoGen's board following the financing.

“After careful diligence, we believe that ApoGen's novel APOBEC technology has tremendous potential to enable a new class of drugs targeting the underlying mechanisms that give rise to drug resistance,” Gutierrez said.

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