Aura raises $80M to advance virus-like drug conjugate therapies

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

March 22, 2021 -- Aura Biosciences has closed $80 million in financing to advance the clinical development of its virus-like drug conjugate (VDC) technology program, including a pivotal phase III program for AU-011, its lead candidate for first-line treatment of choroidal melanoma.

AU-011 (belzupacap sarotalocan) is a VDC therapy that selectively binds unique heparan sulphate proteoglycans that are modified and overexpressed on the tumor cell surface of choroidal melanoma cells and delivers a potent cytotoxic drug that is activated with infrared light. Upon activation, the cytotoxic drug rapidly and specifically disrupts the cell membrane of malignant melanoma cells with a pro-immunogenic cell death mechanism and activation of long-term antitumor immunity.

The treatment has been granted orphan drug and fast-track designations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is currently in phase II clinical development.

The financing will also support ongoing research for additional programs in ocular oncology, as well as expanding the VDC technology platform into bladder cancer, its first nonophthalmic solid tumor indication.

The financing was led by Matrix Capital Management and Surveyor Capital. In connection with this financing, Karan Takhar of Matrix Capital Management will join Aura's board of directors.

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