Epizyme Snags $32M Round to Make Drugs Against Cancer and More

10/7/09Follow @xconomy

Epizyme, the Cambridge, MA-based biotech company developing drugs based on insights from epigenetics into how to turn specific genes on and off, said today it has raised $32 million in a Series B venture round.

San Francisco-based Bay City Capital led the round, which included Amgen Ventures, Astellas Venture Partners and the company’s original investors, MPM Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The company has now raised $46 million since its initial financing in February 2008.

Epizyme has concentrated on making conventional small-molecule drugs designed to be the first in their class that block certain enzymes implicated in cancer, known as histone methyltransferases (HMTs). By blocking enzymes like these, the new drugs use insight from epigenetics, which says that certain genes can be turned on or off without altering the underlying DNA. Epizyme told Xconomy back in April that the company’s main focus was developing these drugs for cancer, but in today’s statement, the company said new data is emerging to suggest that drug that block HMTs might also be useful as therapies for inflammatory diseases, metabolic disorders, and neurodegenerative conditions.

“Rapid progress has been made at Epizyme,” said Kazumi Shiosaki, Epizyme’s CEO and a managing director with MPM Capital, in a statement. “With the support of our new investors as well as our existing investors, we are now in a position to progress a number of these lead programs into proof-of-concept studies.”

The new cash infusion puts Epizyme in a similarly strong financial position as a crosstown competitor, Cambridge’s Constellation Pharmaceuticals. That company, which also intends to make drugs based on the science of epigenetics, raised a $32 million Series A venture round in 2008.

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