Targeted cancer therapy
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Sapience Therapeutics has announced a $41 million Series B financing led by new investor NexPoint with existing investors Bristol Myers Squibb, Eshelman Ventures, and Kingdon Capital. The company’s peptide therapeutics are designed to disrupt protein-protein interactions that are traditionally considered “undruggable targets.”

Marisa Frackman, Sapience’s Chief Financial Officer, said, “We are pleased to have such high-quality investors join us in our pursuit to address difficult-to-treat cancers. The proceeds from this financing will advance our programs through meaningful clinical read-outs and will enable us to expand our pipeline that targets protein-protein interactions, which we believe hold considerable promise in oncology.”

The funds will specifically support the company’s lead program, ST101, which is currently in Phase II for patients with advanced solid tumors. They will also progress its second program, ST316, from IND-enabling studies to the commencement of a Phase I study. In addition, the financing will support the advancement of Sapience’s platform to discover new therapies against what it describes as “high-value targets for difficult-to-treat oncology indications.”

ST101, a first-in-class antagonist of C/EBPβ, is currently being evaluated in the Phase II portion of an ongoing Phase I-II clinical study in patients with advanced unresectable and metastatic solid tumors. ST101-101 is an open-label, two-part, Phase I-II dose-finding study designed to determine the safety, tolerability, PK, PD, and proof-of-concept efficacy of ST101 in patients with advanced solid tumors. In a 2020 report, researchers showed evidence that, in glioblastoma (GBM), C/EBPβ was pivotal in driving expression of TDO2, a protein linked to many solid tumors.

The drug has been granted Fast Track designation for recurrent GBM and advanced cutaneous melanoma in patients who have disease progression on or after anti-PD-1/anti-PD-L1 therapy. It as also received orphan designations from the FDA for advanced melanoma, glioma, and AML, and from the European Commission for the treatment of glioma.

ST316 is a first-in-class β-catenin antagonist currently being evaluated in IND-enabling studies. β-catenin is a key member of the canonical Wnt signaling pathway, a development stage pathway that has long been considered an “undruggable” cancer target because small molecules against it have proven ineffective or toxic. Wnt/β-catenin signaling drives cancer initiation and contributes to tumor growth, angiogenesis and metastasis. ST316 acts through disruption of the BCL9/β-Catenin interaction to suppress transcription of Wnt target genes regulating proliferation, migration, invasion, and the metastatic potential of tumor cells.

Commenting on the investment, Michael Jeong, a Director of Public and Private Investments at NexPoint, said, “This financing is an important step forward to advance Sapience’s next-generation peptide therapeutics that have demonstrated the potential to effectively drug protein-protein interactions, targets that have been largely elusive for the pharmaceutical industry. We are impressed with the strength of the Sapience team, their technologies and their commitment to innovating the oncology field. We are proud to lead this financing and look forward to supporting Sapience through its next phase of growth.”

Said Barry Kappel, Sapience’s Chief Executive Officer and President, “We are proud of Sapience’s significant growth toward becoming a leading oncology company. From attracting a quality investor syndicate in our financing announced today to establishing clinical proof-of-concept with a confirmed partial response in Phase I with our lead program, ST101, we continue to execute on our corporate goals and deliver on our mission to improve the lives of patients with cancer.”

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