Massachusetts-based IDRx emerged from stealth on Tuesday armed with $122 million in Series A funding to bring combination therapies to the forefront of cancer treatment. The oversubscribed round was co-led by Andreessen Horowitz and life science-focused Casdin Capital, according to the company.
Combination therapy is a cornerstone of cancer treatments. Because tumors can mutate, doctors will often prescribe two drugs as a sort of one-two punch against stubborn cancer cells. Sometimes the drugs target different pathways, or they kill different kinds of cells. The goal is to find the right combination of drugs that work hand-in-hand to deliver efficacious treatment.
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Most combination therapy happens when a doctor takes two treatments on the market and pairs them together. Unlike most pharma companies that dedicate resources to singular therapeutics, IDRx wants to collect and create drug compounds that purposefully work together and that can be used in the early stages of treatment, which is when the body is most effective at fighting cancer.
“IDRx’s approach offers the opportunity to develop more effective cancer medicines for patients through intentionally built treatment combinations,” said co-founder and CEO Ben Auspitz in a statement.
The company launched with two therapeutic assets created by pharma giants Merck and Blueprint Medicines that will treat types of gastrointestinal stromal tumors. One is undergoing first-in-human studies, while the other is still in the preclinical setting.
There will always be money in cancer
It’s no secret that cancer is among the top three causes of death worldwide and receives heaps of public funding every year. But venture capital funding in the space has spiked during the pandemic. In 2019 startups in the sector raised $9.8 billion but saw that jump to $16 billion and again to $21.5 billion in 2020 and 2021 respectively, according to Crunchbase data.
The majority of companies in the space focus on creating therapeutics used in a clinical setting, while a handful are working to detect cancer earlier to treat it swiftly.
IDRx co-founder Alexis Borisy, a pharma hall-of-famer who had a hand in several biotech companies (including Blueprint Medicines), said in a statement that the company was leveraging its knowledge of gastrointestinal stromal tumors “to pioneer novel, selective, intelligently designed combination therapies that aim to hit driver mutations hard, cover escape pathways and provide sufficient therapeutic index and safety profiles.”
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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