Tokai Pharma Reports $22M Round, Developing Drug for Prostate Cancer

5/7/09

[[Updated: see editor's note below]] Tokai Pharmaceuticals, a Cambridge, MA-based drug developer, says it has landed $22 million in a Series D round of private equity financing. The startup says that its main focus is advancing a new drug for prostate cancer that is unable to be treated with standard testosterone-blocking therapies, according to its website.

Tokai declined to comment on a SEC filing about the financing yesterday, but today the firm issued a press release to say that Novartis Venture Funds led the round, which included contributions by founding investor Apple Tree Partners, of Cambridge. The firm’s board includes Seth Harrison, a managing general partner at Apple Tree, who is the company’s chairman and acting CEO. Other directors listed are Reinhard Ambros and Campbell Murray, who both work for Novartis Venture Funds, which is the venture capital arm of Swiss drug giant Novartis.

Another Tokai director to note is David Kessler, who was FDA commissioner during most of the 1990s and was the former dean of the Yale School of Medicine and vice chancellor of UC San Francisco’s Medical School.

Tokai is no biotech pup that dreams of someday discovering a drug. The firm, which was founded in 2004, has a strategy of licensing at least some of its drugs from other entities rather than discovering them in-house. Its lead drug, TOK-001, is a compound that targets prostate cancer cells that become resistant to standard hormone-blocking therapies that amount to chemical castration and even surgical removal of the testicles (which produce hormones that help prostate tumors thrive.) The company says on its website that the drug is due to enter Phase I/II clinical trials in the third quarter of this year. About 30,000 men in the U.S. die each year from prostate cancer after the disease develops resistance to hormone-blocking treatments.

The firm has two other treatments in earlier stages of development, one intended to improve implantation of adult blood-forming stem cells in patients with diseases such as multiple myeloma and lymphoma, and the other to treat painful, yet benign tumors in the uterus, known as uterine fibroids. These drugs were licensed from Swiss healthcare products giant Roche and Japanese food and pharmaceutical company Meiji Seika Kaisha, respectively.

[[Editor's note: this story was updated at 2:30 ET today to include additional details on the company's finacing and operations stated in a press release that was issued today after the initial version of this story was posted last night.]]

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.