Athena Therapeutics announces initial financing from Highcape Capital and Connecticut Innovations
New Haven, CT, December 15, 2020 – Athena Therapeutics today announced the closing of an initial financing round with HighCape Capital and Connecticut Innovations. This round of funding will provide the necessary resources to create an innovative cancer drug company that combines world-class scientists, powerful intellectual property, support from Yale University, and a leadership team with extensive experience building successful life sciences companies. Utilizing discoveries and intellectual property licensed from Yale, Athena will focus on exploiting unique metabolic defects in cancer with the goal of developing transformative therapeutics to treat various forms of cancer. Yale School of Medicine Professor and Athena Co-Founder, Dr. Ranjit Bindra, M.D., PhD., said, “We now understand that cancer cells have numerous unique defects in nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) metabolism, which are dependent on key driver mutations, tissue-of-origin, and epigenetic state. These defects are prime targets for small molecule inhibitors of NAD metabolism that could effectively treat a range of cancers, and Athena is laser-focused on exploring this emerging field of drug development.”
City of Hope National Medical Center Professor and Chair of the Department of Diabetes; Cancer Metabolism, and Athena Co-Founder, Dr. Charles Brenner, Ph.D., said, “Having worked on NAD metabolism for over 20 years, I am excited to translate key discoveries from the laboratory into the clinic that target key sensitivities in cancer metabolism.”
HighCape Capital Partner and Athena Co-Founder, Kevin Rakin added, “There is a great unmet need for precision medicine approaches that are specifically focused on cancer metabolism, and Athena will fill this gap. This initial investment will allow the Company to expand its footprint and efforts in Connecticut with the goal of building a robust pre- clinical and clinical pipeline in oncology.”
Athena has developed cutting edge approaches to probe for, identify, and characterize altered states of NAD metabolism and flux. In parallel, it is generating new classes of small molecules which will target multiple nodes in NAD synthesis pathways.
To support these research efforts, the Company has recruited a team of researchers with critical expertise in NAD metabolism including Dr. Emmanuel Burgos, formerly of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, to lead the internal discovery biology capabilities and establish a suite of NAD pathway targets for development. To complement internal expertise, Athena has assembled a Scientific Advisory Board of world experts, which includes Professor Vern Schramm of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, a world renown enzymologist specializing in NAMPT and drug design, and Dr. Leonard Post, a seasoned oncology drug developer and discoverer of the PARP inhibitor talazoparib.
About the Science of NAD
Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) is an essential co-factor required for a wide range of processes in mammalian cells, and multiple pathways have evolved to maintain adequate NAD levels for cellular survival. Research from Athena co-founders, Drs. Ranjit Bindra and Charles Brenner, established that cancer cells can have targetable defects in NAD synthesis, which can be exploited therapeutically. One set of discoveries in this area was published by the Bindra and Brenner laboratories recently in Nature Communications. Key biomarkers associated with this discovery have been exclusively in-licensed from Yale University and the University of Iowa.
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