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Goldman Sachs leads $132 million investment in cancer start-up

Alterome Therapeutics will use the funds to get two drug candidates into human studies

by Rowan Walrath
April 4, 2024 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 102, Issue 11


Three rows of people dressed in jackets with Alterome Therapeutics branding stand outside of a building.
Credit: Alterome Therapeutics
The Alterome Therapeutics team in San Diego

A start-up cofounded by Massachusetts General Hospital oncologist Ryan Corcoran and serial entrepreneur Eric Murphy has raised $132 million to put toward new cancer drugs.

San Diego–based Alterome Therapeutics is advancing two lead drug candidates in parallel. One goes after the oncogene AKT1, whose E17K-mutated form can lead to breast and gynecologic cancers. The other targets the KRAS gene, whose mutated forms can drive non-small-cell lung, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers, among others. Both drugs are small molecules selected in part by machine learning software that Alterome calls Kraken.

With the AKT1 E17K protein blocker, Alterome is aiming to develop a covalent drug that binds the mutant’s lysine amino acid. That’s something CEO Murphy says he’s been pushingtoward since he was a postdoctoral fellow working with David Cheresh at Scripps Research.

Lysine capture is not trivial. It’s a tougher area,” Murphy says. “It’s something that people have been trying to crack, including myself, and something we have not been able to.” He needed a lysine pocket that a drug could effectively target—and says he found that in AKT1 E17K. Alterome will present its findings this month at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting.

The KRAS protein blocker, meanwhile, is designed to target 90% of KRAS mutations, including the common variations G12V and G12D.

With the help of the $132 million series B fundraising, led by Goldman Sachs, Alterome plans to get both drugs into human trials in the next 12 months, Murphy says. He points to the recent approvals of two KRAS blockers, Lumakras from Amgen and Krazati from Bristol Myers Squibb’s Mirati Therapeutics, as reason for optimism.

“We tried to do this 10 years ago. . . . Now the baseline’s rising,” Murphy says. “Our specialty may be these targets because that’s what my mind has been on for 20-plus years.”



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