CG Oncology Inc., an Irvine-based cancer research firm that says it’s making “significant clinical progress” on bladder cancer treatments, this month announced the close of an oversubscribed $105 million crossover financing round.
“We have been impressed and encouraged by the significant progress the team at CG Oncology has made,” Michael Rome, managing director at the company’s newest lead investor, Foresite Capital, said in a statement.
“A significant unmet need remains in bladder cancer, and the CG team is moving with great urgency and focus to deliver potential new treatment options that could elevate the standard of care in this difficult-to-treat patient population.”
The newest funding round follows a Series E round for the immunotherapy firm in late 2022 that raised $120 million and was also oversubscribed.
CG Oncology now has secured more than $300 million since its founding in 2010 to find solutions to bladder cancer, making it one of Orange County’s better-funded life science companies.
A prior investor labeled CG’s approach as “a game changer.”
The company is based out of the 400 Spectrum Center office tower, though much of its employee base works remotely, it says.
The company’s lead asset is called cretostimogene grenadenorepvec, or CG for short. The ‘recombinant oncolytic adenovirus’ is designed to promote a cytotoxic T cell response against tumor cells, killing those cancer cells, according to the National Cancer Institute.
The therapy is making “significant clinical progress” in treating bladder cancer, according to CG Oncology Chief Executive Arthur Kuan.
“We brought in new investors with even deeper pockets,” Kuan told the Business Journal.
The additional investment will allow the company to investigate other opportunities involving bladder cancers, he said.
Kuan declined to reveal the company’s new valuation, except when asked it was near unicorn status, i.e. worth more than a billion dollars, he replied, “We’re getting there.”
The company was recently highlighted on a Nasdaq billboard, though he declined to say if the company would go public.
“We’re certainly open to all options,” Kuan said. “We do have cash for the next two years. We’re pretty comfortable.”
The company’s employee headcount remains around 50, with plans to hire as many as 75 more over the next three years.
The proceeds from the latest round of funding will support the continued advancement of clinical programs in bladder cancer towards FDA approval including BOND-003, a fully enrolled, single-arm, Phase 3, monotherapy study.
The deal marks another local investment for San Francisco-based Foresite Capital, an investor in healthcare and life science firms. Other area companies it has previously backed include ophthalmology device makers RxSight (Nasdaq: RXST) and Ivantis, as well as biopharmaceutical firm Avanir Pharmaceuticals.
Besides Foresite Capital, other investors included TCGX, Avidity Partners, BVF Partners and Janus Henderson Investors, as well as existing investors including Acorn Bioventures, Ally Bridge Group, Decheng Capital, Longitude Capital, Malin Corporation and RA Capital Management.
“Cretostimogene grenadenorepvec has the potential to address resistance mechanisms to approved immunotherapies and substantially improve outcomes for bladder cancer patients,” said Giuliano Marostica, principal at TCGX, another lead investor.
“We are excited to partner with CG Oncology to develop this transformational therapy that addresses a high unmet medical need in bladder cancer.”
No. 6 Cancer
Bladder cancer is the sixth most common form of cancer in the U.S., with an estimated 81,000 new cases this year. The median age of diagnosis is 73, with men four times more likely to get it than women.
A bladder cancer patient has limited options. Either the bladder must be removed or repaired, which has a high fatality rate, or medications are administered.
It’s a disease that is costly to the healthcare system because of an intense follow-up schedule for patients. Up to 50% of high-risk patients will see symptoms recur within a year.
Chemotherapy often doesn’t work because the bladder, as would be expected, urinates the anti-cancer drugs out.
In contrast, CG’s “oncolytic immunotherapy” uses genetically modified viruses to target tumors in the bladder.
In data presented in April, the company said 17 patients out of 25 who received the therapy remained cancer free at 12 months.
CG’s therapy might be available by 2025 if all goes to plan, Kuan said.
Kuan, who holds a master’s degree in biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University, has long been interested in pharmaceutical research, having lost his father to pancreatic cancer.
Last month, the company announced completion of enrollment for its BOND-003 study, which is evaluating cretostimogene grenadenorepvec in patients with high-risk non-muscle invasive bladder cancer. About 110 patients are enrolled across North America and the Asia-Pacific regions.
“As a patient advocacy organization, it is exciting to see new treatments get closer to being available to bladder cancer patients with BCG-unresponsive disease, who have so few options available,” said Andrea-Maddox Smith, chief executive officer at Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network.
“Many will only have the option of bladder removal, which is not always available due to other health concerns.”