Nanodrugs firm Cerulean Pharma raised $15 million in a Series D round of fundraising with new and existing investors. The funds will be used to complete a Phase II study with lead cancer candidate CRLX101 in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer, support investigator-sponsored Phase II studies with the drug in additional indications, and advance the firm’s docetaxel nanopharmaceutical candidate into the clinic. Cerulean also plans to push on with preclinical development of additional nanopharmaceutical programs, including one for RNAi delivery, comments Oliver Fetzer, Ph.D., president and CEO.
CRLX101 is composed of the anticancer agent camptothecin, coupled to a cyclodextrin-based polymer that self-assembles into nanoparticles of consistent size and other physical attributes. Data from a previous Phase IIa trial were reported in November, and demonstrated that treatment improved progression-free survival in heavily pretreated NSCLC patients.
Cerulean is exploiting its nanopharmaceutical platforms to develop a pipeline of drugs primarily for the treatment of cancer, but potentially for use in additional indications such as inflammation and infectious diseases. The firm claims its technologies can be applied to a range of molecules, including synthetic compounds, peptides and RNAs.
The nanoparticle platform comprises two complementary technologies for generating stable, biocompatible drug candidates exhibiting optimized tissue-targeting and controlled release features. The polymeric nanoparticle technology (PNP) is designed to allow nanoparticle customization through conjugation chemistry particle composition and formulation. The cyclodextrin nanoparticle technology (CDP) generates self-assembled nanoparticles of a defined size range, and represents the foundation for development of Cerulean’s lead candidate CRLX101.
Cerulean claims the platforms result in the design of nanoparticle drugs that maintain their integrity in the circulation, but favor extravasation through the vasculature and penetration and retention at the tumor site. The physical properties of the nanoparticles are also designed to facilitate endocytic intracellular uptake help to avoid multi-drug resistance, and allow controlled, sustained drug release.