Radiopharma specialist Aktis' first-round financing swells to $156m


Aktis Oncology has gone back for another bite of the cherry in its Series A round, adding another $84 million to the $72 million raised last year to help bring its radiopharmaceuticals to market.

The extension to the first round saw participation from the venture capital arm of Merck & Co plus other investors – Bristol-Myers Squibb and Novartis were already on board – and takes the total raised by the Massachusetts biotech to $161 million.

Aktis' technology platform relies on the use of alpha radiation – which has limited penetrating power – to deliver highly localised radiotherapy to tumours.

Its drugs are designed to target receptors on tumour cells delivering alpha particles deep within the cancer or its metastases, and yet be rapidly cleared from the body to  reduce whole-body exposure to the radiation.

Alpha particles have around 1,000 times the cell-killing potency of beta particle-emitting therapies – for example Novartis' Lutetium-177-based cancer therapies Lutathera and Pluvicto and older drugs based on radioactive iodine.

According to Aktis, alpha particle therapies are also less prone to the development of treatment resistance because they introduce breaks across both strands of DNA in malignant cells.

The Cambridge biotech's pipeline consists of targeting 'miniprotein' conjugate molecules linked to Actinium-225, an alpha-emitting isotope, with a focus on therapies for breast, lung, bladder, liver and colorectal cancers.

Earlier this month it negotiated supply agreements with NorthStar Medical, Niowave, and TerraPower to provide the radioisotopes needed for its programmes.

The two-year-old biotech's chief executive Matthew Roden (pictured above) said the new funding will "fuel the advancement of our miniprotein programmes into the clinic and enable further investment in our differentiated development capabilities as well as our end-to-end supply chain and distribution strategy."

Along with Merck's MRL Ventures Fund, the extension to the Series A also saw participation from Cowen Healthcare Investments, ArrowMark Partners, Mirae Asset Venture Investment, Timefolio Capital, and Pappas Capital, amongst others.