A startup cancer therapy developer and supportive care provider jointly established by Emory University and the University of Queensland (UQ) has raised $16 million in Series A financing.
QUE Oncology will use the funding to advance clinical development of its lead program Q-122 and progress its preclinical pipeline, said Australia’s Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), which led the financing and joined seed-stage venture fund Uniseed in announcing the investment yesterday.
Q-122 is a novel nonhormonal therapy for the treatment of hot flushes in women undergoing endocrine therapy for breast cancer. Q-122 has potential for expanded use in related conditions, like hot flushes associated with menopause, according to MRCF.
QUE seeks to meet the unmet need for alternatives to drugs conventionally prescribed for women with breast cancer to stop growth of the disease by reducing or blocking estrogen, since that reincreases the likelihood and intensity of hot flushes.
“The affliction can become so debilitating that some cancer patients have reported that they’d rather discontinue taking their cancer drugs than suffer continued hot flushes. We think that QUE Oncology’s novel approach has the potential to reduce these symptoms and substantially improve the quality of life for these women,” said MRCF CEO Chris Nave, Ph.D., who is also managing director of Brandon Capital Partners.
Brandon manages the MRCF initiative that provides seed and venture capital funding to support development and growth of Australian life sciences companies.
QUE Oncology plans to launch a randomized, placebo-controlled Phase IIa clinical trial for Q-122, building on positive Phase Ib results where more than 85% of patients experienced a reduction in severe hot flushes, MRCF said.
QUE also plans to advance the three preclinical projects, which are in the areas of breast cancer, melanoma, and cancer pain. The projects have been licensed from UQ researchers Maree Smith, Ph.D., Trent Woodruff, Ph.D., Greg Monteith, Ph.D., and Sarah Roberts-Thomson, Ph.D., and collaborator William Denny, Ph.D., D.Sc., from the University of Auckland,
As part of the investment, Rob Crombie, Ph.D., will join QUE as its CEO. He has held senior management roles with Prescient Therapeutics, Arana Therapeutics, and EvoGenix, and has a doctorate in molecular oncology and deep clinical development insight.
QUE was founded in 2013 through a collaboration between UQ’s main commercialization company UniQuest and Emory University based on intellectual property licensed from both universities, with both parties providing seed investment and support.
Joining MRCF and Uniseed in the financing were UniQuest, Emory University, and Centrosome Ventures. The MRCF investment was made through member institute the UQ Centre for Clinical Research.
“We are grateful for the strong support of our new investors, who share our excitement for the potential of Q-122 to safely and effectively treat the hundreds of thousands of breast cancer survivors who suffer from hot flushes today,” added Dennis Liotta, Ph.D., founder and a director of QUE Oncology.