Tesaro Snags Huge $101M Venture Round to Develop Cancer Drugs

6/21/11Follow @xconomy

Who needs the risky, messy business of early drug discovery? A number of top venture capitalists and public investors have shown, through a monster $101 million Series B investment in Waltham, MA-based Tesaro, that the preferred bet of the day is on a proven team of people aspiring to push cancer drugs through the later stages of development.

Tesaro said today that Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers led the financing, which included founding backer New Enterprise Associates, and new investors that include InterWest Partners, T. Rowe Price, Pappas Ventures, Oracle Partners, Deerfield Management, and Leerink Swann.

The company was founded a little over a year ago by a team of veteran drug developers who made their fortunes by selling MGI Pharma to Japan-based Eisai for $3.9 billion in 2008. The vision for Tesaro has been to scoop up cancer drug candidates that others discovered, but which need further development in clinical trials. Instead of building a company around a new technology platform or asset from a university, Tesaro raised money first ($20 million last May), and used the cash to help in-license its first drug candidate by December.

Tesaro’s big bet now is on rolapitant, a drug from Opko Health for chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting, which Tesaro says is ready for the third and final stage of clinical trials normally required for FDA approval. In March, Tesaro obtained some other options for its pipeline, by licensing cancer drugs from Amgen that are designed to block a particular enzyme called ALK.

“We are very pleased to have this superb group of new investors join management and NEA in financing the development and expansion of our pipeline of oncology product candidates,” said Lonnie Moulder, Tesaro’s CEO, in a statement. “This new capital will fully fund the development of rolapitant through Phase 3 clinical trials and potential regulatory submissions, and advance the ALK inhibitor program into a clinical trial assessing safety and activity in cancer patients.”

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