- Biotechnology startup Artbio said Thursday it raised $90 million in a Series A financing that highlighted investors’ appetite for an emerging class of cancer medicines known as radiopharmaceuticals.
- Third Rock Ventures and an undisclosed healthcare fund led the round, which drew participation from seed investors F-Prime Capital and Omega Funds. Artbio previously announced seed funding of $23 million in June.
- The company also hired two more executives from Swiss drugmaker Novartis. Philippe Dasse will become chief technology officer, while Daniel Rossetto will take the role of head and senior vice president of supply chain and external manufacturing at Artbio. They join CEO Emanuele Ostuni, who previously served as head of Europe for cell and gene therapy at Novartis Oncology.
The idea behind radiopharmaceuticals is to harness the power of radiation in targeting tumors without causing all the destructive fallout for the body’s healthy cells. The drugs are designed to precisely deliver cell-destroying radiation directly into tumors.
That promise has drawn interest from major drugmakers like Novartis and sparked the creation of a least a dozen startups. Unlike the classic budding biotech, many of these companies — including Artbio — have already entered clinical testing.
Artbio has three programs in its pipeline. Its lead drug, AB001, targets prostate cancer with a radioactive isotope called Pb212. The company says the isotope is ideal because it can quickly deliver radiation to tumors with high stability in the carrier molecule.
Dasse and Rossetto both join the management team with experience at Advanced Accelerator Applications, the radiopharmaceutical specialist bought by Novartis for $3.9 billion six years ago. Dasse was the first employee of AAA in 2002 and most recently served as head of technical operations at Novartis Oncology. Rossetto’s last job was global head of supply chain at AAA within Novartis.
Artbio will have plenty of competition as it ramps up. Novartis is continuing to expand its radiopharmaceutical work, recently announcing positive results in gastrointestinal cancer. Bayer, one of the field’s earliest entrants, has been steadily building its business in the area for years. And Eli Lilly in October announced plans to enter the field with a $1.4 billion purchase of Point Biopharma.
Meanwhile, startups focused on radiopharmaceuticals are continuing to find willing investors even in a tough market. RayzeBio went public in a $311 million offering in September and both Mariana Oncology and Nucleus RadioPharma announced significant financing rounds in the last few months.