BioPharma

Aura Biosciences pulls in $21M for tumor-targeted rare eye cancer therapy

Biotech company Aura Biosciences has secured a $21 million Series B round of funding led by financing from Advent Life Sciences and both new and previous investors. The company is focused on using the money to further develop its mini-drug-delivery capsules (synthetic viruses). This technology was discovered and developed in partnership with Dr. John Schiller […]

Biotech company Aura Biosciences has secured a $21 million Series B round of funding led by financing from Advent Life Sciences and both new and previous investors.

The company is focused on using the money to further develop its mini-drug-delivery capsules (synthetic viruses). This technology was discovered and developed in partnership with Dr. John Schiller at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which eliminates the risk of affecting healthy tissue, specifically being used with rare ocular cancer treatment in this case.

The funding will allow the company to move forward with clinical study phases to ensure that the drug is safe and provide the go-ahead for the registration phase, according to Elisabet de los Pinos, founder and CEO of Aura Biosciences.

“Our investors share our vision and our conviction that our technology will uniquely enable the development of breakthrough therapies for orphan cancers that have no effective treatments,” Pinos said in a press release. “Our lead product is focused on treating ocular cancers that are life-threatening, yet for which patients have no targeted or FDA-approved therapies available.  We are dedicated to bringing to this patient population first-in-class therapies that can both eliminate the tumor and preserve vision.”

The focus of developing this particular therapy with eye cancer, which had other potential candidate cancers originally, is simply due to the fact that there is no other drug approved in that particular area. In turn, that will allow for a quicker transition into a commercial product than if the technology was directed toward things like pancreatic or breast cancer, Pinos says.

“Although, that does not mean we cannot do it,” Pinos added, verifying that this technology could have many uses for various cancers moving forward.

In addition to the benefits of being a player in an unoccupied field, narrowing the focus to eye cancer allows the researchers to understand whether or not the drug works in a relatively short period of time due to the conditions and small size of the affected area involved with the back of the eye.

A primary reason this technology is novel is the fact the amount of drugs needed to kill any tumor cells is quite small, Pinos pointed out. So figuring out how to use less drugs for really effective treatment means decreasing the potential of side effects and risks.

A quote from back in 2009 does a great job of creating a visual for how this therapy works. “Aura’s technology mimics an intercontinental ballistic missile,” former chairman at Aura, Edmundo Muniz wrote in an e-mail to Ryan McBride at Xconomy. “We know we can send it to a target thousands of miles away and we know the missile is so precise it can penetrate through the window of a building in a specific city, in a specific block, and inside a specific floor.”

Aura Biosciences is moving forward enthusiastically with its newly-funded efforts and is planning to file a New Drug Application by 2019, Pinos said.