Verastem, Rooted at MIT, Raises $32 Million and Adds ATV and Astellas to Slate of Investors

7/14/11Follow @arleneweintraub

Boston-based oncology startup Verastem, which was founded by MIT biologists Robert Weinberg and Eric Lander, has raised $32 million in a Series B financing, the company announced today. Verastem is developing drugs that target cancer stem cells, and it previously raised $16 million from a group led by former Sirtris CEO Christoph Westphal’s Longwood Founders Fund.

Longwood joined this latest funding round, which was led by Advanced Technology Ventures (ATV) and Astellas Venture Management, with participation from the other existing investors, Bessemer Venture Partners, Cardinal Partners, and MPM Capital. Verastem will use the proceeds from the financing to support the development of its drug candidates, which the company is now in the process of selecting, with the goal of getting the first Verastem drug into clinical trials in 2012.

Verastem is focusing on finding treatments for “triple-negative” breast cancer—a form of the disease in which patients’ tumors lack the three key receptors associated with breast cancer that current drugs target: estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). “There are very limited therapeutic options for these patients and they have a poor prognosis,” says Verastem’s chief operating officer Robert Forrester, who spoke to Xconomy by phone this morning.

Targeting cancer stem cells is one of the hottest concepts in oncology research. Companies ranging from New York drug giant Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) to OncoMed of Redwood City, CA, are all working on drugs that target these stem cells, which … Next Page »

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