Nearly a year after raising $85 million from investors, Black Diamond Therapeutics has raised another $85 million to help push its allosteric therapies into the clinic in the next few months. The Series C round was led by Boxer Capital.
Black Diamond launched last December as the first company to come out of Versant’s Ridgeline discovery engine in Basel. They had two former developers of the cancer drug Tarceva as co-founders in David Epstein and Elizabeth Buck and a relatively new approach to oncology. Within a month of their full launch, they also had $105 million in backing.
Allosteric therapies are essentially like other oncogenetic therapies, such as kinase drugs, that inhibit a protein fueling cancer. But rather than try to inhibit the protein straight-on, these therapies target cancers that emerge from mutations in networks, or an “ensemble,” of domains that affect each other from a distance.
For cancer, that can mean a mutation somewhere away from the main binding site of, say, the HER2 receptor can cause changes to the entire protein and fuel tumors.
Black Diamond has spent the last year mapping these allosteric mutations, particularly around the well-known oncogenes EGFR and HER2. They’ve published papers suggesting that the inhibitors for these proteins have failed in some patients because the cancer-causing mutation is not at the main binding site, but rather an allosteric mutation elsewhere.
Now they are ready to head into the clinic. They plan to start a Phase I/II trial of their lead drug BDTX-189 in the first half of 2020. They have not said which target it hits, but the pipeline on their website lists the HER2 program as the only one that’s reached the IND stage. The EGFR program appears not far behind, followed by three more unnamed ones.
On top of the Boxer Group, new investors include Wellington Management Company, BVF Partners, Deerfield Management, Casdin Capital, and Logos Capital. Pre-existing investors who joined the new round include Versant Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, RA Capital Management, Nextech Invest, Invus, Perceptive Advisors, City Hill Ventures, and Roche Venture Fund.
In addition to the funding, Black Diamond also announced today that CRISPR Therapeutics CEO Samarth Kulkarni is joining the board of directors.