2021-09-23| Funding

858 Therapeutics Launches with $60 Million Series A for Advancing Small-Molecule Drugs

by Judy Ya-Hsuan Lin
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After staying under the radar for more than two years, San Diego-based biotech startup, 858 Therapeutics launches with $60 million in Series A financing to develop small-molecule drugs for cancer, with an initial focus on RNA-modifying enzymes and innate immunity.

The Series A financing was led by founding investor Versant Ventures, with participation from New Enterprise Associates, Inc. (NEA), Cormorant Asset Management, and Logos Capital. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati represented NEA and Versant Ventures in the transaction. The funding will enrich 858’s discovery platform by interrogating a novel area – RNA therapeutics to treat patients with intractable forms of cancer.

“The launch of 858 builds on our long-standing relationship with Versant in San Diego and leverages our prior experiences in both nucleic acid metabolism and innate immunity,” said 858 CEO Dr. Jeffrey Stafford. “We are also pleased to have such strong support from NEA, Cormorant, and Logos as we develop an internal pipeline of precision oncology drug candidates.”

Related Article: ESMO21: Latest Clinical Studies Answer Central Questions in the Treatment of Leading Cancers

The 858 Therapeutics team includes CEO Jeffrey Stafford, Ph.D., CSO James Veal, Ph.D., and VP of Biology Gretchen Bain, Ph.D. Their previous leadership roles were at three other San Diego-based discovery companies co-founded by Versant including Jecure Therapeutics, Quanticel Pharmaceuticals, and Amira Pharmaceuticals.

Jecure, acquired by Genentech in 2018, developed therapies against innate immunity targets to treat serious inflammatory diseases. Acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb’s partner Celgene, Quanticel developed a DNA-modulating drug candidate in 2015. Amira, integrated into Bristol Myers Squibb in 2011, developed anti-fibrotic small molecules.


Collaborations of 858 Therapeutics

The startup’s name comes from one of the area codes in its San Diego area. It has a platform, which includes an array of proprietary in vitro biochemical and biophysical assays as well as cellular assays, to evaluate the effect of RNA-modifying proteins on disease biology and a pipeline of small molecules against priority targets.

858’s pipeline will be enhanced through its $54 million acquisition of Gotham Therapeutics in October 2018. Gotham based in New York City focuses on epitranscriptomics, the study of chemical modifications of RNA. Gotham’s lead drug discovery program has found in some cancers an elevated level of an enzyme METTL3 which adds methyl groups to adenosines in RNA.

Besides Gotham, biotech companies like Storm Therapeutics and Accent Therapeutics have also focused on the development of METTL3 inhibitors. Both Gotham and Storm plan to start clinical trials in 2023 and 2022, respectively.

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