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Venture Capital News: Arcus Biosciences Inks $70M

HAYWARD, CA, Arcus Biosciences, a cancer immunotherapy startup, has raised $70 million in Series B.
According to the San Francisco Business Times, the team that in less than two years built and sold cancer immunotherapy company Flexus Biosciences for $1.25 billion has raised $70 million for its latest venture.

The latest funding round by Arcus Biosciences Inc. of Hayward included new investors GV -- the venture arm of Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) -- Stanford University, Invus Group, the venture arm of Japanese drug company Taiho Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. and specialty investor DROIA Oncology Ventures.

Arcus was launched by Terry Rosen and Juan Jaen, who took San Carlos-based Flexus through a $1.25 billion deal in February 2015 with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE: BMY). They soon gathered a $50 million Series A that included The Column Group, Celgene Corp. (NASDAQ: CELG) -- two Flexus investors -- as well as Foresite Capital and Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS).

The fresh round of cash will help Arcus push three antibody drug projects in the clinic by the end of 2018.

The news was first reported by Fierce Biotech.

Arcus' first three programs reportedly zero in on ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, a coenzyme used in many cellular processes. When dying cells release ATP and it is converted back to adenosine, the immune system is told not to mount a response to the invading cancer. That helps cancer cells thrive.

One of Arcus' programs targets CD73, a molecule that is believed to be critical in helping cancer evade an immune response. CD73 is found in greater amounts in cancerous tissue, such as in ovarian cancer.

Arcus, according to Fierce Biotech, also is looking at the same pathway for blocking CD38, an enzyme found on the surface of many immune cells and multiple myeloma cells, and A2A receptor, the blocking of which could help emerging T cell therapy, checkpoint inhibitors and vaccines.

Arcus has more than 40 employees, but Fierce Biotech reported expects to have 60 by year end.

'We really do plan to build here for the long term,' said Rosen, who at one time was site head of Amgen Inc.'s (NASDAQ: AMGN) South San Francisco research center, told the San Francisco Business Times last month.

Rosen and Jaen also worked together at Tularik Inc., the South San Francisco company bought by Amgen in 2004.
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