Feb 05, 2016
Galera Therapeutics, Inc., a BioGenerator portfolio company focused on developing new treatments for cancer patients, recently announced the completion of a $42 million Series B financing. The proceeds of the financing will be used to advance the development of Galera’s pipeline of drug candidates, including advancement of its lead compound GC4419 into a Phase 2b clinical trial for the prevention of oral mucositis (OM) in head and neck cancer patients. The Series B financing was led by Novo Ventures, with participation from existing investors New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Novartis Venture Fund (NVF), Correlation Ventures and the St. Louis Arch Angels, as well as from new investor London-based Enso Ventures. Dr. Thomas Dyrberg, Managing Partner of Novo Ventures, has joined the Galera Board of Directors.
Galera’s mission is to develop new medicines targeting oxygen metabolic pathways in cancer and other diseases. The core technology for its portfolio of small-molecule superoxide dismutase mimetics was originally developed by Galera’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dennis Riley, PhD, in St. Louis at the pharmaceutical division of Monsanto. This technology was subsequently acquired by Galera and developed into the clinical candidates now focused first on treating oral mucositis (OM) in patients undergoing standard chemoradiation for head and neck cancer. Radiation is known to generate free radicals, highly reactive compounds that damage DNA and other cellular structures. Galera’s technology selectively neutralizes the free radicals in non-cancerous tissue while maintaining the anti-cancer activity of the radiation.
“Radiation therapy can be a very effective treatment for head and neck cancer patients, except when severe OM interrupts the regimen and thus may impair its efficacy,” said Robert Beardsley, PhD, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Galera. “In addition, mucositis can be extremely painful for patients and prevent them from eating or even drinking. GC4419 appears to offer a real opportunity to lessen this burden on patients without decreasing control of their cancer.”
BioGenerator provided the initial seed financing for Galera in 2010 along with the Arch Angels and ABC Laboratories of Columbia, MO. In late 2012 the company closed an $11M Series A venture financing, co-led by NEA and NVF, joined by Correlation Ventures, followed in 2014 by a Series A-1 financing of $10M. With that support, Galera advanced GC4419 into clinical studies and last year completed a Phase 1b/2a trial that demonstrated clinical proof of concept for GC4419, markedly reducing the incidence, intensity and duration of severe OM.
“The St. Louis Arch Angels are excited and pleased to be an early and consistent follow on investor in every round of Galera Therapeutics’ capitalization. Some 30 individuals and entities have invested a total of $2.3M since 2010. We are particularly proud to be participating in the development of cancer drugs that can potentially increase patients lives and quality of life for a significant number of years.”
The company, now headquartered in the Greater Philadelphia area, maintains a significant scientific presence and R&D team in St. Louis, at the Helix Center in Creve Coeur, including Drs. Beardsley and Riley.
With this new round of financing, Galera has begun enrolling patients with head and neck cancer onto a randomized double-blind Phase 2b clinical trial, and is advancing its pipeline of dismutase mimetics, including its first orally available candidate, and also investigating other clinical settings where inappropriate free radical production drives disease.
“This company exemplifies the advancements being made in the St. Louis startup landscape,” said Eric Gulve, president of BioGenerator. “It is proof of technology development occurring here that can attract significant amounts of venture capital from large firms outside the region.”
About Oral Mucositis (OM)
OM is a common debilitating side effect of radiation treatment in head and neck cancer (HNC) patients. Severe OM, defined by the World Health Organization as Grade 3 or 4 OM, occurs in 60 to 80 percent of HNC patients who receive radiation therapy. Importantly, severe OM may result in interruptions in radiation treatment, which can compromise the otherwise good prognosis for tumor control in many of these patients. In addition, patients suffer significant pain, may develop serious infections, and may be unable to eat solid food or even drink liquids. Further, the costs of managing these side effects are substantial, particularly when hospitalization and/or surgical placement of PEG tubes to maintain nutrition and hydration is required. There is currently no drug approved to prevent or treat severe OM in head and neck cancer patients.
About Galera Therapeutics Inc.
For more information, visit www.galeratx.com.
BioGenerator produces a sustained pipeline of successful bioscience companies and entrepreneurs in St. Louis by creating, growing and investing in promising new enterprises, and cultivating a thriving bioscience sector, building regional capacity to capitalize on St. Louis’ world class medical and plant biosciences. Please visit www.BioGenerator.org for additional information. Follow BioGenerator on LinkedIn linkedin.com/company/BioGenerator and Twitter @BioGeneratorSTL.
About St. Louis Arch Angels
The St. Louis Arch Angels is an angel investment network of 85 members who have invested well over $50M in approximately 60 companies since its inception in 2005. Investments have been primarily in the agricultural, life sciences and IT areas. The organization meets on a regular monthly basis, has looked at well over 500 deals in its 10 year existence and has invested as little as $200,000 and as high as $6M in individual companies. The network has had approximately 6 exits and only a few company failures to date.