New RTP startup backed by Eshelman aims at cancer treatment

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With financial backing from one of North Carolina’s most influential venture capitalists, a new company based in Research Triangle Park is taking technology out of G1 Therapeutics to develop its own cancer treatment.

ARC Therapeutics has launched with $6 million in new funding led by founding investor Eshelman Ventures of Wilmington. The company has inked a license agreement with RTP-based G1 Therapeutics for its preclinical CDK2 inhibitor program.

Dr. Patrick Roberts, ARC’s co-founder and CEO, said the team making up the startup is the same founding scientific team as G1 Therapeutics, and they believe it is time to move on to their next project now that G1 is in the commercialization period of its growth.

“We’re scientists, drug hunters at heart,” he said. “We clearly had a role at G1 helping move the programs through that we initiated, but it was time for us to think about exiting and going back to what we’re really passionate about – which is that early development.”

The company is built around the CDK2 inhibitor program. Whereas recent advances in cancer treatment have focused on targeting CDK4/6, the company believes it can use its CDK2 focused approach to tackle resistance that cancer sometimes develops to popular approaches. The company’s name is partially an acronym for advanced/resistant cancer (ARC).

Because the program has already been developed under G1’s umbrella, Roberts said they are starting in the optimization phase and hope to initiate the Investigative New Drug (IND) enabling study in early 2021.

“Historical efforts to target CDK2 have been unsuccessful due to an inability to design or identify potent and selective CDK2 inhibitors,” said Dr. Jay Strum, a co-founder of ARC and its chief scientific officer. “The rational design approach we used to develop inhibitors selective for CDK4/6 versus CDK2 at G1 Therapeutics led to a keen understanding of key structural features within the CDK2 binding pocket that can be exploited to develop a potent and selective CDK2 inhibitor. At ARC Therapeutics, we now have an incredible opportunity to effectively treat patients with advanced and resistant cancers.”

The company’s connection with Fred Eshelman, the founder of Wilmington-based Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD), stems from its involvement in G1, where Eshelman serves as a board member.  Roberts said that because of existing connections with investors like Eshelman, the new company believes it has the financial backing to advance the program.

“This team has an ideal combination of complementary experience and expertise to select the best compounds and bring them to the clinic,” Eshelman said in a prepared statement – he serves as chairman of the company and is a co-founder. “I am confident in this team’s ability to successfully discover and develop inhibitors of CDK proteins and realize the company’s mission of improving the lives of patients with advanced and resistant cancers.”

With its initial funding, Roberts said the company has a sufficient runway to get through the IND-enabling study. Under the terms of the deal for the technology, G1 received an upfront payment and equity in ARC.

“We’ve built strong relationships with local investors, as well as investors outside RTP,” Roberts said. “And so I think that when it’s time to raise the next round, there will be a lot of interest.”

Original Article Source: Triangle Business Journal