Karolinska Development, the technology transfer arm of Karolinska Institutet, announced its portfolio company Aprea AB raised SEK 437 million (€47 million) in a series B round, the largest private financing to date by one of its companies, and by any private life science company in Sweden in the last decade .
The money comes from US specialist life sciences investors Versant Ventures and 5AM Ventures, Sectoral Asset Management of Canada, and HealthCap of Sweden.
The new funds will be used by Aprea to advance the clinical development of its lead cancer programme, APR-246, a first-in-class compound that targets and re-activates the tumour suppressor protein p53.
p53 is the most frequently mutated gene in human cancer, and is present in approximately 50 per cent of tumours. Mutant p53 is often associated with resistance to chemotherapy and poor overall survival, representing a major unmet medical need in the treatment of cancer. APR-246 re-converts mutant p53 protein to its wild-type (normal) conformation and function, thereby re-activating its anti-tumour activity.
“The completion of this SEK 437 million new financing round, the largest fundraising for a private Swedish life science company for over a decade, is a major milestone for Karolinska Development,” said Jim Van heusden, CEO of Karolinska Development. “The deal underscores the value of our more focused portfolio approach and provides Aprea with the necessary funding to reach its next major value inflection point.”
Aprea is investigating APR-246 in a Phase Ib/II clinical study in high-grade serous ovarian cancer. The Phase Ib part of the study is completing and the randomised Phase II part is expected to start in the near future. The company is also planning to conduct trials in other cancers, including both solid and haematological tumours, and to establish a presence in the US.“The funding enables us to further advance this promising product candidate not only in its lead indication – ovarian cancer – but to also explore its activity in a wide variety of other tumour types,” said Bernd Seizinger, Executive Chairman of Aprea. “A compound like APR-246 that specifically works in tumours with mutant p53 has the potential to truly transform the way many types of cancer are treated.”