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Stealthy X4 Pharma, Aided by Termeer, Other Ex-Genzymers, Nabs $37M+

Xconomy Boston — 

Former Genzyme CEO Henri Termeer has been active as an advisor and investor in the Boston biotech scene the past few years, forming ties with companies like Moderna Therapeutics, Lysosomal Therapeutics, Aura Biosciences, and others. The latest startup to add to his list is X4 Pharmaceuticals, which apparently has raised $37.5 million, according to a regulatory filing.

The Cambridge-based startup is headed by a group of executives tied to Genzyme. Paula Ragan, who spent six years there, is X4’s president and CEO.

Termeer (pictured above) is listed on the X4 website as founding advisor and investor. According to Ragan’s LinkedIn page, Termeer contributed to over $1.5 million in seed funding for X4 along with former Cubist Pharmaceuticals CEO Mike Bonney and other unnamed angel investors.

Others involved in the startup include board member Richard Peters, currently Genzyme’s strategy development officer, and chief operating officer Alison Lawton, who spent two decades at Genzyme. X4 was incorporated in 2012 and its founder, Renato Skerlj, was a key figure in developing the Genzyme drug plerixafor (Mozobil), an adjunctive therapy used to aid with bone marrow transplants in patients with certain blood cancers.

The $37.5 million fundraise emerged via a filing with the SEC late last week. Attempts to confirm details of the financing with the company were unsuccessful as of Tuesday morning. It’s unclear, for example, whether or not the figure includes any of the $1.5 million mentioned on Ragan’s LinkedIn page, and how much the company has raised in total since its inception. A new round would seem to line up with this other detail on Ragan’s page: “X4 is currently raising operating capital via a Series A preferred equity offering.”

X4’s website shows that the company is developing oral, small molecule drugs for tough-to-treat solid tumors. These drugs target a receptor called CXC chemokine receptor type 4, or CXCR4, which is implicated in tumor progression and is overexpressed in several different cancers. Specifically, X4 says on its site that blocking CXCR4 with a drug can help “unmask” a tumor to the immune system—particularly after a cancer has recurred after treatment.

X4 founder Skerlj has experience with CXCR4. He helped develop plerixafor when he was at Canadian drug firm AnorMED. Genzyme bought AnorMED in 2008 for $580 million after a bidding war with Millennium Pharmaceuticals.

X4’s two drugs, known as X4P-001 and X4P-002, are in development for rare and lethal forms of kidney, ovarian, and brain cancer, and these drugs are apparently close to clinical testing, according to the website. X4P-001 is advancing into Phase 1/2 trials for refractory clear cell renal cell carcinoma and refractory epithelial ovarian cancer. X4 is developing X4P-002 as a treatment for the brain cancer glioblastoma multiforme.

On her LinkedIn page, CEO Ragan has written that the company grabbed rights to these compounds through a licensing deal with “a top-10 global pharmaceutical company.”

It turns out that as recently as 2013, Sanofi, which bought Genzyme in 2011, was trying to sell rights to a group of oral CXCR4 drugs, including one that had been tested in a Phase 1 study of HIV patients, according to this Sanofi document.

But among the compounds’ potential uses, Sanofi wrote, were glioblastoma. Whether the Sanofi assets described in the document were the ones licensed to X4 has not been confirmed. Neither Sanofi nor Genzyme immediately responded to an e-mail query.