Cyteir Therapeutics, a startup that three years ago spun out of research conducted at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, announced Thursday it has raised $5.5 million in a Series A financing round.

The biotech company, which is now based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, raised the funds on a promise to combat cancer by leveraging company co-founder Kevin Mills’ research in the fields of “DNA repair” and “genome instability.”

Mills, who joined JAX in 2005, conducted research that identified a molecule that can cause cancer cells to essentially self-destruct. In addition to being Cyteir’s chief scientific officer, Mills is still employed by JAX, a nonprofit research organization, and maintains his lab in Bar Harbor. Cyteir has an exclusive license to key technologies and patents owned by JAX.

“Dr. Mills’ insights are a potential game-changer in treating many cancers,” Edison Liu, an oncologist by training and JAX’s CEO, said in a statement. “By targeting what he calls ‘genetic co-dependencies’ he has shown that it’s possible to use the mechanisms involved in genetic instability to cause tumor cell self-destruction, without attacking normal cells.”

The investment comes from a syndicate of private investors and Celgene Corp., a global biopharmaceutical company based in New Jersey.

Cyteir, which is still in its research stage, will use the investment funds “to accelerate its current lead program, enhance and diversify its screening platform, and build its pipeline by developing additional new drug candidates,” according to a news release.


Cyteir was the second for-profit spin-off from JAX when Mills and co-founder Tim Romberger started the company in 2013. David Shaw, founder of Idexx Laboratories in Westbrook and former chairman of JAX’s board, was also a co-founder and now serves as one of Cyteir’s senior advisors.

Romberger served as Cyteir’s interim CEO through the financing round, but concurrent with the Series A closing the company announced another one of its senior advisors was moving into the CEO role.

Donald Corcoran, most recently chief of staff and head of operations for AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, will become Cyteir’s president and CEO. He will also join its board. Corcoran said in a statement that he was excited by the opportunity to lead the company, noting that the area of scientific endeavor Cyteir is involved in was recently recognized with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

“Our goal is to expand the boundaries of this science and provide new agents to patients in order to alter human diseases,” Corcoran said.

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