BioPharma, Pharma

Endeavor Bio adds $101M to test ex-Eli Lilly, Roche drug in cancer & lung fibrosis

Endeavor BioMedicines aims to kill two birds with one stone—that stone being a small molecule drug. Taladegib targets a cell signaling pathway associated with both cancer and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and the biotech will apply its Series B round toward clinical tests of the molecule on both fronts.


Endeavor BioMedicines, a clinical-stage biotech that launched a little more than a year ago with a well-traveled lead drug candidate passed on by two large pharmaceutical companies, now has a fresh $101 million to advance the development of that compound for applications in both cancer and lung fibrosis.

Ally Bridge Group and Avidity Partners led the Series B round of funding announced Monday.

The Endeavor drug, taladegib, is a small molecule designed to block the hedgehog signaling pathway. This pathway plays a key role in cell division and the development of different tissues, but it sometimes goes awry and leads to cancer. The drug is designed to block a receptor in hedgehog signaling called PTCH1. Mutations to this receptor are found in about 2% of all cancers, according to the San Diego-based company. Because that mutation is found in multiple types of cancer, Endeavor said its planned Phase 2 study will enroll cancer patients who have this mutation regardless of the type of tissue in which tumors are found.

Endeavor is also pushing forward with plans to test taladegib in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a disease that leads to the formation of scar tissue in the lungs. The company says this scar tissue is driven by dysregulations of myofibroblasts, which are repair cells activated by the hedgehog pathway. Enrollment is already underway for a Phase 2 study testing the drug as a monotherapy in patients with mild-to-moderate IPF.

Taladegib has changed hands multiple times in its history. The small molecule came from the labs of Eli Lilly, which licensed the drug to Ignyta in 2015. That biotech aimed to develop it as a treatment for basal cell carcinoma. Taladegib and other assets went to Roche in 2017 when the Swiss pharma giant acquired Ignyta in a $1.7 billion deal. Roche already had a hedgehog pathway blocker. Its drug vismodegib, marketed as Erivedge, won FDA approval in 2012 for treating basal cell carcinoma. Led by CEO John Hood, Endeavor took taladegib off of Roche’s hands and launched in January 2021, backed by a $62 million Series A financing.

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Endeavor’s drug pipeline goes beyond taladegib. The company is also developing ENV-201, a small molecule designed to block ULK1/2, a key enzyme in the process for recycling components of a cell. Cancer cells can leverage this process to supply them nutrients and metabolites that they need when those substances aren’t available in the blood supply. Tumors that do this develop resistance to standard cancer therapies. Cancers characterized by mutations to the KRAS gene are noted for harnessing this mechanism. By targeting ULK1/2, Endeavor aims to block this recycling system in patients with certain genetically defined cancers. Some of the new funding will be used to complete the preclinical research leading up to an investigational new drug application. Endeavor said it aims to this small molecule into human testing in the next year.

Besides Ally Bridge Group and Avidity Partners, other new investors in the latest financing include Perceptive Advisors, Piper Heartland Healthcare Capital, Revelation Partners, funds managed by Tekla Capital Management, and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates. Earlier investors Omega Funds and Longitude Capital also participated.

Photo: ThitareeSarmkasat, Getty Images