Biotechnology startup raises $11M for small molecule therapeutic to treat cancer, fibrosis

A biotechnology startup has figured out a way to harness a natural antioxidant defense for cells and apply it to treating conditions ranging from mucositis — a common side effect of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for head and neck cancers — to fibrosis.

It has received $11 million in a Series A financing round that is moving the company from its home in St Louis, Missouri to the Philadelphia region, according to a company statement.

Superoxide dismutase is an enzyme that’s part of humans’ natural defense to remove superoxide from cells — a highly reactive compound that can inflict damage on DNA, RNA, proteins and lipids and contributes to many different diseases.

Galera Therapeutics‘ superoxide dismutase mimetics are small molecules that mimic the effect of the superoxide dismutase enzyme’s properties. Newly appointed CEO Dr. Mel Sorensen told MedCity News in a phone interview that the technology was developed by its Chief Science Officer Dennis Riley when he worked for Pfizer and subsequently licensed from the big pharma company for an undisclosed amount.


What’s the advantage to developing  a small molecule version of the superoxide dismutase enzyme? It can avoid the negative feedback loops that reduces the amount of the enzyme in the body.

Prior to joining Galera, Sorensen was CEO of Ascenta Therapeutics. He has also worked at GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer.

Galera will use the investment from New Enterprise Associates, Novartis Venture Funds and Correlation Venturesto carry out Phase 1b clinical trials  for three leading indications: in addition to fibrosis and mucositis from chemotherapy and radiation therapy, Galera will also develop the compound as an anticancer therapeutic. The trials will evaluate the compound in patients for safety and efficacy in smaller studies before moving on to randomized studies.

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