Biotech startup ApoGen, which is researching solutions to drug-resistant cancers, is moving into a new phase of development. The company announced Thursday that it has raised an additional $4 million as part of its series A round, bringing the total in that round to $11 million.
The additional funding comes from M Ventures, the venture investment arm of German multinational healthcare company Merck KGaA, which shares a name with the American drug manufacturer.
ApoGen said the funding will help the startup grow its team and establish its first independent lab and office in Seattle. The company was incubated by Accelerator Life Science Partners and has been working from Accelerator’s office since its launch in 2016.
Along with the new funds, ApoGen added two biotech leaders to its executive team, its first outside hires. As part of the new financing, M Ventures Investment Director Keno Gutierrez will also join the company’s board of directors.
“Drug resistance is a critical obstacle to achieving optimum outcomes for cancer patients, and new approaches to overcoming this resistance would create significant clinical and commercial value,” Gutierrez, who is based in Amsterdam, said in a press release. “After careful diligence, we believe that ApoGen’s novel APOBEC technology has tremendous potential to enable a new class of drugs targeting the underlying mechanisms that give rise to drug resistance.”
New and more effective cancer treatments are being developed every day, but many cancers mutate their DNA to develop a resistance to treatment. ApoGen is hoping to prevent that with a small molecule drug that prevents the cancer from mutating, effectively stopping it in its tracks before it can develop a resistance.
One of ApoGen’s new hires is a familiar face in Seattle’s biotech world: Peter de Vries. He has held leadership roles at global health nonprofit PATH, startup Cascadian Therapeutics and, most recently, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. De Vries will now serve as ApoGen’s senior director of biology.
The company also added San Diego-area biotech executive Steve Gwaltney, who will serve as the company’s VP of chemistry. Gwaltney has spent the past six months as a chemistry advisor to Accelerator Life Sciences Partners.
De Vries and Gwaltney join ApoGen co-founders John Santini, Reuben Harris and Daniel Harki on the company’s team. ApoGen launched in December of 2016 with its initial $7 million in funding.