HOUSTON and SHREVEPORT, La., and NEW ORLEANS - The Focus Fund GP, LLC, in partnership with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, has launched Cancer Focus Fund, LP, an oncology-focused investment fund designed to support the advancement of compelling investigational cancer therapies from late preclinical development through Phase I and Phase Ib/II clinical trials.
Small to midsize biopharmaceutical companies often face challenges in conducting effective early-stage clinical studies as a result of a lack of funding, as well as access to oncologists, clinical facilities and eligible patients seeking to participate in cancer trials. Cancer Focus Fund aims to address this unmet need by providing investments for promising cancer therapeutics together with the clinical trials expertise and infrastructure of MD Anderson. The goal is to accelerate the progress of these promising therapies through Investigational New Drug (IND) approval and Phase I and Phase Ib/II studies.
Cancer Focus Fund has held its initial closing with over $50 million of capital commitments. In addition to MD Anderson, Limited Partners include the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Rice University Endowment, LSU Health Shreveport Foundation, Ochsner Health and other private investors.
"The Cancer Focus Fund is a unique investment fund that aligns the scientific and clinical expertise of MD Anderson with business experts, public financing entities and private venture capital to propel promising cancer therapies toward pivotal trials," said Ross Barrett, a founder and Managing Partner of Cancer Focus Fund. "We are delighted to work with MD Anderson in this effort and are optimistic that our approach will help companies successfully conduct clinical trials and bring more novel treatments to patients. We also believe our unique approach has the potential to reward our investors and thereby provide incentives for further investments in innovative cancer therapies."
Cancer Focus Fund is jointly administered by a scientific advisory committee, made up of MD Anderson researchers and physicians, and an investment committee, composed of experienced biotechnology investment professionals. The scientific committee will consider candidates from worldwide sources for potential investment based on scientific merit, and the investment committee will make final decisions on funding based on those recommendations.
"We are committed to bringing forward the most impactful new therapies that will improve the lives of our patients," said Ferran Prat, Ph.D., J.D., senior vice president for Research Administration and Industry Relations at MD Anderson. "Without appropriate support, we know that some therapies with great potential may be delayed, may not be developed properly in the clinical setting or may never make it into clinical studies. Through investment from the Cancer Focus Fund and the support of MD Anderson, we hope to advance worthwhile new treatments past the traditional hurdles in the drug development process to the patients who need them."
As part of the partnership, MD Anderson will design and host clinical studies for therapies that receive IND approval, utilizing the extensive expertise of MD Anderson physicians in conducting early stage clinical trials. In addition, Ochsner Health and LSU Health Shreveport, which serve large numbers of cancer patients, will work with Cancer Focus Fund portfolio companies to provide additional clinical trial sites so that patients can join clinical studies as appropriate.
"Through the Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center at Ochsner, the Precision Cancer Therapies Program offers the only program in our region dedicated to offering early phase clinical trials for cancer patients," said Leonardo Seoane M.D. Chief Academic Officer and Senior Vice-President Ochsner Health. "We are very excited to partner with the Cancer Focus Fund to help develop new therapies to treat cancer and provide these clinical trials closer to our communities."
"The Feist-Weiller Cancer Center at LSU Health Shreveport is excited to be a part of the Cancer Focus Fund to bring the latest new cancer clinical trials to our community," said Dr. Chris Kevil, Vice-Chancellor for Research at LSU Health Shreveport. "We are confident our clinical trial facilities, coupled with expanded patient access to clinical trials across north and central Louisiana in partnership with Ochsner Health, will yield promising results for all citizens of Louisiana."