H3 Biomedicine launches with $200M from Eisai

H3 Biomedicine launches with $200M from Eisai

Eisai Inc. launched on Thursday a wholly owned research and development subsidiary in Cambridge called H3 Biomedicine Inc. that will focus on personalized cancer medicines based on cancer genetics and chemistry advances.

Eisai, the U.S. pharmaceutical subsidiary of Tokyo-based Eisai Co. Ltd., has pledged up to $200 million in research funding, plus more for clinical development of H3 Biomedicine programs, according to a press release. H3 also will have access to many of Eisai’s drug development capabilities.

The new company is capitalized at $1 million and wholly owned by Eisai’s U.S. unit, according to H3 spokeswoman Suzanne Grogan. She said the new company expects to employ up to 75 people. Grogan added that H3 will function as an autonomous entity.

The release said the affiliation with Eisai will let H3 take a longer-term view of drug discovery than is typical of many venture-backed start-up companies. “Our alliance with H3 Biomedicine represents a new approach to cancer drug discovery that holds enormous promise to help patients worldwide suffering from cancer,” Eisai Co. Ltd. CEO Haruo Naito said in a statement.

The company will base its research on patient cancer genetics that can reveal drug targets tailored to their cancers and on advances in modern chemistry that enable discovery of new classes of drugs against those targets.

According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 7.9 million deaths in 2007. Death from cancer is projected to rise, with an estimated 12 million deaths expected in 2030.

Kentaro Yoshimatsu, chief scientific officer of Eisai Product Creation Systems, will serve as H3’s president. The company is searching for a chief scientific officer for H3.

H3’s scientific founders are researchers Stuart L. Schreiber and Dr. Todd R. Golub, both founding members of Harvard and MIT’s Broad Institute. The two will serve as academic advisors to H3.

Schreiber, professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard, is credited with discovering cancer proteins targeted by three new and approved anti-cancer drugs. He also is a scientific co-founder of Acetylon Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Boston. Schreiber and Golub are co-founders of Cambridge oncology treatment startup Forma Therapeutics Inc. Golub, an investigator at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, has pioneered genomic approaches to cancer biology and cancer drug discovery.

Last November, Eisai Inc. and Forma announced a strategic drug discovery collaboration under which Forma will receive upfront payments and committed funding of $20 million over three years and is eligible for additional milestones plus royalties on future products that Eisai may commercialize. Grogan said H3 also will have access to Forma’s technology.

By Lori Valigra, Mass High Tech correspondent

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