Investing & Startups| December 27, 2018
Erasca Inc. sets out to erase cancer with $42M from series A funding round
After selling Ignyta Inc. to Roche Holding for $1.7 billion early this year, biotech entrepreneur and investor Jonathan E. Lim quietly launched his new company, Erasca, in July, and just raised $42 million to advance the company’s cancer drug development.
The Series A financing round co-led by Lim’s own investment firm, City Hill Ventures, and Boston-based Cormorant Asset Management, joined by additional unnamed institutional and individual investors. Proceeds of the financing will support development of a new generation of oncology drugs intended to not just treat, but actually cure cancer.
As ambitious as that might sound, Erasca is basically a company dedicated to erasing cancer, which is where the name comes from, so the $42 million it just raised will be used to advance exceptional scientific approaches towards the company’s goal.
What is Erasca’s mission?
“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,” said Jonathan E. Lim, M.D., Erasca’s executive chairman and co-founder. “Erasca was borne out of a mission to address this significant 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.”
Erasca’s founder is well known for his work as a scientist and company leader, his background alone being reason enough to look forward to this new company’s exploits.
“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,” said Bihua Chen, Portfolio Manager, Cormorant Asset Management. “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.”
Who is Jonathan Lim and who is he working with?
According to his bio, Jonathan Lim has been, since 2003, a leader and founding investor of four other biotechnology startups. These companies all delivered new treatments for the benefit of patients globally, had a capital of $1 billion and produced more than $4 billion of shareholder value. Dr. Lim’s previous ventures have been sold for large amounts of money to renowned larger companies. He has co-founded, funded and led several other successful ventures, including Bonti (acquired by Allergan), Eclipse Therapeutics (acquired by Bionomics) and Halozyme Therapeutics. His most recent operational role was as chairman, president, CEO and co-founder of Ignyta. He also is dedicated to building world-class, mission-driven ventures as managing partner for City Hill Ventures, an impact-minded investment firm he founded in December 2010, and as Venture Partner at ARCH Venture Partners, one of the largest seed and early stage technology venture firms in the U.S.
Jonathan Lim will not work alone in his newest venture, Erasca. He is joined in Erasca’s founding leadership team by business and finance veteran, Gary Yeung, CFA, who will be the company’s Chief Business Officer, and highly regarded computational biologist, Robert Shoemaker, Ph.D., who is Vice President of Biology.
What is new in Erasca’s approach, compared to Ignyta’s?
Lim’s previous company, Ignyta, is renowned for being one of the companies trying to develop “tissue agnostic” cancer drugs. These drugs would have a particular ability: to lock on a tumor’s genetic imprint, no matter where in the body the tumoral formation has formed. Ignyta’s entrectinib, for instance, is currently being tested against a variety of different tumors with so-called NTRK fusions.
Coming back to Erasca, the company’s ambitious plans seem to go the distance towards finding a definitive cure for cancer, as the name suggests. In prepared remarks, founder Lim said the company exists to find novel treatments which could “erase” cancer. No more managing the condition with chronic treatment, no more keeping the cancer at bay by various invasive solutions, but definitively destroying any trace of it ever existing.
Erasca has multiple discovery programs underway for undisclosed targets that are biological drivers of cancer. The recently obtained money could move the company a few steps closer to disclosing more about its discoveries, as soon as they can move into human clinical studies. Erasca is also pursuing additional opportunities for pipeline expansion through academic and biopharmaceutical collaborations. Machine learning has great potential to advance cancer treatment, so the company wants to take advantage of any and every opportunity to successfully battle the disease.
At Erasca, the mission is embedded in the name: To erase cancer in patients by creating a new generation of oncology drugs intended to not just treat, but actually cure. The company is advancing multiple discovery programs for undisclosed targets that are biological drivers of cancer and is pursuing additional opportunities for pipeline expansion through academic and biopharmaceutical collaborations. Founded in 2018 and headquartered in San Diego, Erasca has raised $42 million in series A financing from investors who share the company’s ambitious goal, including founding investors City Hill Ventures and Cormorant Asset Management.