Forma Therapeutics bounces back from Celgene fallout with $100 million Series D – Endpoints News

Posted: December 21, 2019 at 5:49 am

Last we heard about Forma Therapeutics funding was in March, when they were laying off employees as longtime partner and benefactor Celgene then in the process of being bought out by Bristol-Myers Squibb severed ties. Cut off from what turned out to be a $757 million IV, they axed 61 staff members, hired a new CEO and began reorienting the company.

The shift has evidently managed to convince some investors. Forma announced today a $100 million Series D that will fuel the companys push to become a clinically focused biotech. The syndicate includes investors long known for taking companies toward an IPO, led by RA Capital and joined by Cormorant Asset Management, Wellington Management, Samsara BioCapital, among others.

In the last month, we have presented important proof of mechanism and differentiating clinical data for our programs in sickle cell disease, glioma, AML and NASH, new CEO Frank Lee said in a statement. We are energized by the commitment from this group of leading industry investors as we move into 2020, another critical year with multiple clinical data readouts and a new program entering the clinic.

The top program of note is a sickle cell drug called FT-4202. Unlike the recent sickle cell approvals from Novartis and Global Blood Therapeutics that attempt to relieve the diseases worst symptoms or complications, and unlike the experimental gene therapies that offer the tentative promise of a cure, FT-4202 modifies the course and underlying biology of the disease without affecting the genome. It activates an enzyme called pyruvate kinase-R that is supposed to help prevent sickling and help hemoglobin bind to oxygen.

Forma announced data from the first Phase I/II trial at ASH but only mentioned positive PK and safety results.

Much has changed at Forma since March. In addition to sickle cell, they also presented early data on glioma (a type of brain tumor), NASH and acute myeloid leukemia. Lee was brought in from Genentech to replace Steve Tregay, who had led the company since founding it in 2009. In September, they hired a new CFO and a new general counsel and promoted Patrick Kelly to CMO and Brian Lesser to therapeutic head.

Forma had for much of its life relied on several partnerships, most prominently a collaboration with Celgene that began in 2013 to develop drugs in oncology and eventually expanded to a handful of other fields. That partnership came to a sudden halt in the last few days of 2018 as the NJ-based giant prepared to announce a merger with Bristol-Myers Squibb. Documents Celgene filed as part of that buyout revealed they had given Forma $757 million over the life of the deal.

The sudden closure left the biotech facing key questions about its future. They cut staff, including 25 members of their discovery group, and began pivoting toward late-stage development. Their most advanced program is in AML, where a pivotal study is now enrolling patients.

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Forma Therapeutics bounces back from Celgene fallout with $100 million Series D - Endpoints News

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