BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Chroma Therapeutics Ltd. raised £5 million (US$9.6 million) from a U.S. investor to add to its £10 million second round completed in May, allowing the chromatin biology specialist to increase its burn rate and bring a third target into its portfolio.

"We are going to be charging down the runway faster," Richard Bungay, chief financial officer, told BioWorld International.

The new money comes from Essex Woodlands LLP, of Irvine, Calif. Petri Vainio, managing director of Essex, became a nonexecutive director of Chroma earlier this year.

"The key attraction for us of this funding is getting a U.S. investor on board," Bungay said. "Once you have one, others will get interested." Although unusual in the current climate, the financing was at a premium to the round completed in May.

Chroma's lead product, CHR-2797, an aminopeptidase inhibitor, entered Phase I trials in October in patients with advanced or metastatic solid tumors that are resistant to therapy. The Abingdon, UK-based company's other programs are in histone deacetylase inhibitors - in which the current lead, CHR 2504, inhibits cell proliferation in a number of cancer cell lines and increases acetylation in those cells - Aurora kinase inhibitors, glyoxalase I inhibitors and histone methyltransferase inhibitors.

In parallel, Chroma is developing a biomarker technology to identify patients who are appropriate for clinical trials and to monitor response to therapy. Chromatin from tumors is found in the blood of cancer patients, and Chroma has rights to chromatin biomarkers discovered by founding scientists Tony Kouzarides and David Allis.

Through agreements with the University of Cambridge and the research nonprofit Cancer Research UK Ltd., of London, Chroma has access to present and future research carried out by Kouzarides and the third scientific founder, Paul Workman. The company has a similar deal with the University of Virginia in the U.S. to access intellectual property generated by Allis.

At present Chroma's commercialization strategy is "up for grabs," Bungay said. "That is not because we have not been thinking about it. But while there have been big deals on preclinical compounds [that inhibit chromatin-modifying enzymes] we would prefer generally to out-license after Phase IIa, because that's how you add the most value."

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