Stealth San Diego startup Metacrine raising $33M. Are we reassembling the Seragon team?

An interesting new San Diego biotech – Metacrine – is in the works. CFO Trisha Millican said the company’s raised $6.85 million, and is aiming for $33 million – but otherwise is keeping silent on its dealings. So time for some extrapolation: It’s anyone’s guess what the target the company’s chasing, but my money’s on a hormone-driven […]

An interesting new San Diego biotech – Metacrine – is in the works.

CFO Trisha Millican said the company’s raised $6.85 million, and is aiming for $33 million – but otherwise is keeping silent on its dealings.

So time for some extrapolation: It’s anyone’s guess what the target the company’s chasing, but my money’s on a hormone-driven cancer – and another partnership between San Diego heavy hitters Ron Evans and Rich Heyman. Or, at the very least, a reassembling of the strong Aragon Pharmaceuticals/Seragon Pharmaceuticals team. Here’s why:

Evans, Metacrine’s founder, is a lauded gene expression researcher at the Salk Institute who has a number of successful (cancer and hormone-related) biotechs under his belt.

Evans is known, according to his Salk profile, for his seminal hormone research – and the receptors that are primary targets in treating breast cancer, prostate cancer and leukemia, as well as osteoporosis and asthma. Evans co-founded Ligand Pharmaceuticals, which currently has a market cap of around $1.7 billion, and Syndax, which is a late-stage breast cancer biotech with intriguing ties to Merck’s Keytruda.

Interestingly, Metacrine also shares connections with Aragon Pharmaceuticals, whose prostate cancer drug was acquired two years back by J&J for $1 billion; and also with its sister biotech, Seragon Pharmaceuticals, whose breast cancer drug sold last year to Roche for $1.7 billion.

Rich Heyman, the founder of this power duo, worked for Evans decades back; later, they came together to launch X-Ceptor Therapeutics. Heyman just joined the Salk board.

When Aragon folded, Heyman told me Seragon took its employees. And now that Seragon’s wound down its operations… a lot of talented folks are looking for a job?

Metacrine CFO Millican has also served as Seragon’s interim CFO.

This is likely the story of one friend helping the other get an employee base. After the Seragon mega-sale, Heyman’s been out of a job – and told Xconomy he’s “not going to go operational any time soon.” Still, he’s got a boatload of cash from the two acquisitions, so… what’ll he fund next? A startup looking for $33 million, perhaps?

[Image courtesy of Flickr user Fun Flying]