Cambridge-based biotech Artios Pharma has raised £65 million in series B financing from investors including Pfizer and Novartis, to further its development DNA Damage Response (DDR) therapies for cancer.

The financing, which the company said was significantly oversubscribed, was led by Andera Partners (formerly EdRIP) and LSP (Life Sciences Partners), with participation by additional new investors Pfizer Ventures and Novartis Venture Fund (NVF). Artios’ existing shareholders Arix Bioscience, SV Health Investors, M Ventures, IP Group plc and AbbVie Ventures also participated in the fundraise.

Artios is developing a pipeline of first-in-class DDR therapies identified from a global network of leading researchers in the DDR field, including through Cancer Research UK.

The inhibition of novel DNA repair targets like Polθ, in tumours where DNA damage response factors have been lost or down regulated, will lead to cancer cells being selectively killed without harming normal cells. This creates an opportunity for such products to be used both in monotherapy and in combination with existing and future cancer therapies.

“We believe Artios’ DDR programmes have the potential to bring real impact to cancer patients,” said Raphael Wisniewski, Partner of Andera Partners. “DDR is an exciting field of biology, which has been clinically validated by the first generation PARP inhibitors currently on the market. The new funds will allow Artios to advance its portfolio of first-in-class, small molecule DDR programmes including its lead programme targeting DNA polymerase theta (Polθ), through clinical proof of concept trials.”

The Artios team, while at KuDOS, were involved in the development of olaparib, the first approved PARP inhibitor and used in ovarian and breast cancer. AstraZeneca later acquired KuDOS and became the first pharmaceutical company to launch a PARP inhibitor.

"We believe strongly in the story and the science behind Artios, and the investment in the Series B is a strong message of support for the company and team," said Jonathan Tobin, Investment Director at Artios' largest shareholder Arix Bioscience and Board Member at Artios Pharma. "We made a bet two years ago that  DDR was largely overlooked, due to the industry’s preoccupation and very heavy investment in immunotherapy. This has led to a perfect storm – an underappreciated opportunity, combined with novel science and a highly experienced team with a proven track record of clinical and commercial success, and the emerging clinical and commercial success of the PARPs validating the synthetic lethality premise."

In conjunction with the Series B financing, Raphael Wisniewski from Andera Partners, Rene Kuijten from LSP and Barbara Dalton from Pfizer Ventures, will join the Board of Artios as directors and Florian Muellershausen from NVF will join as an observer. This financing follows a $36 million Series A fundraise that was completed in September 2016.