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Erasca Announces Launch with $42 Million Series A Round Targeting Cancer

Co-founder Jonathan Lim, MD, was CEO of Ignyta, which was acquired by Roche in February 2018 for $1.7 billion.

A new company formed to not just treat, but to actually cure, cancer announced its launch today with a $42 million Series A round of financing. San Diego-based Erasca (Erase Cancer) was co-founded by Jonathan E. Lim, MD, the physician-turned-“venturepreneur” who most recently was co-founder, president, CEO and Chairman of Ignyta, the cancer gene therapy company acquired by Roche RHHBY in February 2018 for $1.7 billion. The financing was led by Dr. Lim’s own City Hill Ventures and Cormorant Asset Management, with participation from additional undisclosed institutions and individuals.

Erasca is Dr. Lim’s fifth biotechnology startup, with his previous four including Ignyta having raised a combined $1 billion in capital and generated over $4 billion of shareholder value. His other companies include Bonti [acquired by Allergan AGN], Eclipse Therapeutics [acquired by Bionomics BNOEF] and Halozyme Therapeutics HALO. Dr. Lim founded City Hill Ventures in 2010, and just this month he became a venture partner at ARCH Venture Partners, one of the largest seed and early stage technology venture firms in the US.

We had been following Dr. Lim’s progress with Ignyta for many years, and in September 2018, Roche announced positive data from a combined analysis of three clinical trials of entrectinib, the lead asset it acquired in the Ignyta deal. Entrectinib is a selective tyrosine kinase inhibitor that was shown to shrink tumors in 77% of people with locally advanced or metastatic ROS1-positive non-small cell lung cancer. In addition, entrectinib demonstrated a durable response of more than two years and was shown to shrink tumors in more than half of patients with cancer in the central nervous system.

Cancer is a pervasive disease that has impacted nearly everyone I know in some way. Individuals continue to be seriously afflicted and in need of healing beyond what can be provided by available treatments. Erasca was borne out of a mission to address this patient need and, one day, erase cancer. We recognize that this is an ambitious goal, as cancer is a formidable foe. But no mission worth taking is ever easy.

-Jonathan E. Lim, MD, Executive Chairman and Co-founder, Erasca.

According to its press release, Erasca has “multiple discovery programs underway for undisclosed targets that are biological drivers of cancer.” The company also seeks to expand its pipeline through academic and biopharmaceutical partnerships with those scientists and corporations that have made innovations in precision oncology.

Founded on exciting new discoveries around key molecular drivers of cancer, and having assembled a team of executives with a legacy of multiple prior successes, Erasca is the company that stands an excellent chance of deftly overcoming multiple obstacles along this exciting, yet long, journey of bringing a breakthrough medicine to patients. Tackling a mission this large requires a combination of passion for the patient and strong business acumen. Jonathan’s background as a physician and biotech company leader who has led multiple successful companies, along with the outstanding team he has assembled, position Erasca well in executing on its mission.

– Bihua Chen, Portfolio Manager, Cormorant Asset Management.

Erasca’s other disclosed co-founders include Robert Shoemaker, PhD, VP of Biology, and Gary Yeung, CFA, Chief Business Officer. Dr. Shoemaker was head of the computational biology group at Ignyta, contributing to the successful development of entrectinib by developing a patient selection strategy, building the molecular diagnostic assays and modeling disease resistance. Mr. Yeung was most recently VP of the early cancer detection business unit at Guardant Health GH and a member of the leadership team that prepared the company for its October 2018 IPO.

While Erasca didn’t disclose any other details of its discovery programs, this is a company we will keep firmly on the radar, as those who have backed Dr. Lim previously have found the investment to be fruitful.

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