Agios Nabs $78M From Partner Celgene, Existing VCs, and Public Funds

11/17/11Follow @arleneweintraub

Cambridge, MA-based Agios said today it has secured $78 million in an oversubscribed Series C financing. Included in this round are Agios’s drug-development partner Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG), along with existing investors Arch Venture Partners, Flagship Ventures, and Third Rock Ventures. The company also attracted several new investors that it did not name, except to say they included “three leading, large public investment funds.”

Agios is working in the field of cancer metabolism, which is the study of enzymes that alter the metabolism of cancer cells by feeding them key nutrients. In April 2010, Summit, NJ-based Celgene formed a development deal with Agios worth $130 million, and on Oct. 5, it extended the deal to four years from three, for another $20 million. All in all, Celgene is taking a huge bet on a very early technology: Agios is still about two years away from having drug candidates that are ready for human testing.

In October, Celgene’s president of research, Thomas Daniel, told Xconomy his company has been particularly impressed by Agios’s research into a mutated gene called IDH1. The data so far, he says, suggests that the metabolite produced by IDH1 may influence epigenetics—the molecular changes in cells that turn genes on or off. Celgene markets two leading epigenetic drugs in oncology, azacitidine (Vidaza) and romidepsin (Istodax).

Agios said today that the new funding will help it expand into a class of genetic diseases known as IEMs, which are caused by mutations or defects in metabolic genes. These mutations cause substances to build up in the body and interfere with normal metabolic functioning.

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