CAMBRIDGE, MA – April 2, 2019 – Aura Biosciences, a leader in the development of novel targeted therapies in ocular oncology, today announced that it closed a $40 million Series D financing. New investor Medicxi led the round, with current investors also participating.
The Company plans to use the proceeds from the Series D financing to support the late stage clinical development of their lead asset, light-activated AU-011, for the treatment of primary choroidal melanoma.
“The additional funding provided by this Series D financing enables Aura to continue to execute on our goals of developing the first targeted treatment for patients with primary choroidal melanoma, a life and vision threatening rare disease with no drugs approved,” said Elisabet de los Pinos, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Aura. “We are delighted to have the support from lead investor Medicxi, along with our existing investors, as we enter this next stage of the company’s growth.”
In conjunction with the closing of the financing, Giovanni Mariggi, Ph.D., a Partner at Medicxi, will join Aura’s Board of Directors.
About Choroidal Melanoma
Choroidal melanoma is a rare and aggressive type of eye cancer. Choroidal melanoma is the most common primary intraocular tumor in adults and develops in the uveal tract of the eye. No targeted therapies are commercially available at present. The most common current treatment for choroidal melanoma is plaque radiotherapy, which involves surgical placement of a radiation device on the exterior of the eye over the tumor and is associated with severe visual loss and other long-term sequelae such as dry eye, glaucoma, cataracts and radiation retinopathy. The only other alternative is enucleation, or total surgical removal of the eye. Choroidal melanoma metastasizes in approximately 50 percent of cases with liver involvement in 80-90% of cases and, unfortunately, metastatic disease is universally fatal (source: OMF). There is a very high unmet need for a new vision-sparing targeted therapy that could enable early treatment intervention for this life-threatening rare disease given the lack of approved therapies, and the comorbidities of radioactive treatment options.
About Light-Activated AU-011
AU-011 is a first-in-class targeted therapy in development for the primary treatment of choroidal melanoma. The therapy consists of proprietary viral-like particle bioconjugates (VPB) that are activated with an ophthalmic laser. The VPBs bind selectively to unique receptors on cancer cells in the eye and are derived from technology originally pioneered by Dr. John Schiller of the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), recipient of the 2017 Lasker-DeBakey Award. Upon activation with an ophthalmic laser, the VPB rapidly and specifically disrupts the cell membrane of tumor cells while sparing key eye structures, which may allow for the potential of preserving patients’ vision and reducing other long-term complications of radiation treatment. AU-011 can be delivered using equipment commonly found in an ophthalmologist’s office and does not require a surgical procedure, pointing to a potentially less invasive, more convenient therapy for patients and physicians. AU-011 for the treatment of choroidal melanoma has been granted orphan drug and fast track designations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is currently in clinical development.
About Aura Biosciences
Aura Biosciences is developing a new class of therapies to selectively target and destroy cancer cells. Its lead program, AU-011 in primary choroidal melanoma, is being developed under a CRADA with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health. Current institutional investors participating in the financing includes Advent Life Sciences, Arix Bioscience, Chiesi Ventures, Columbus Venture Partners, Lundbeck Ventures and Ysios Capital. For more information, visit www.aurabiosciences.com.
Medicxi is a European venture capital firm with the mission to create and invest in companies along the full drug development continuum. Medicxi was established by the former Index Ventures life sciences team, which has been active for over 20 years, and invests in both early and late-stage assets with a product vision that can fulfill a clear unmet need. GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and Verily, an Alphabet company, have invested in Medicxi funds. Please see www.medicxi.com for more information.
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