New York firm leads $40M Series A for Baltimore-based Dracen Pharmaceuticals - Baltimore


New York firm leads $40M Series A for Baltimore-based Dracen Pharmaceuticals

Deerfield Management Company invested $36 million in the Johns Hopkins spinout as part of the round.

Lab space at Johns Hopkins' FastForward 1812.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

A biotech company founded by Johns Hopkins researchers to develop new drugs to fight cancer said this week that it is raising $40 million in Series A funding.

The round for Dracen Pharmaceuticals was led by Deerfield Management Company, a New York–based firm which invested $36 million in the round.

The year-old company is building on discoveries by Johns Hopkins professors Barbara Slusher, Jonathan Powell and Rana Rais, as well as Pavel Majer of the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry in Prague.

The research has shown initial effectiveness of “immuno-metabolism.” According to the company, this involves fighting cancer on two fronts at the same time. One element is cancer metabolism, which seeks to stop the energy sources that keep tumors alive. The other is immunotherapy, which involves harnessing the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.

The company is looking to develop a pipeline of drugs that build on this work, and also sees potential to extend to other types of diseases. The funding will help advance that work.

Deerfield’s engagement in our efforts helps bring us closer to an important potential step forward in the treatment of cancer,” Dracen CEO Thomas M. Etsok said in a statement.

It’s just the latest recent sign of interest in work at Johns Hopkins from healthcare-focused Deerfield. Separately, the firm is also backing a joint venture with Johns Hopkins for early stage therapeutic research called Bluefield Innovations. That fund has $65 million available for research work that shows promise toward being commercialized.

It’s one happening among the university’s wider effort to create more companies from research efforts that once again set the nationwide pace in spending.


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