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VCs Bet $95 Million on Arcutis

Arcutis Biotherapeutics arrived on the drug development scene late in October, by raising $94.5 million in Series C funding from investors including Vivo Capital, BlackRock, Omega Funds, Pivotal BioVentures and Goldman Sachs. Other major funders come from San Francisco, Boston and New York: Frazier Healthcare Partners, Bain Capital Life Sciences, OrbiMed, Hillhouse Capital Group, Rainbow Group Capital Management and RA Capital Management. The private immuno-dermatology drug development company in Westlake Village has used proceeds to fund Phase 3 clinical development of ARQ-151, a topical cream to treat plaque psoriasis, and continued development of the drug to also treat atopic dermatitis. Arcutis has raised more than $160 million in investment capital since its founding in 2016. Although the company only set up its brick-and-mortar location at 2945 Townsgate Road in March of this year, it has been functioning in a virtual capacity for more than two years. “Investing in small biotechs is very risky business. Arcutis, because we focus on novel targets and also because of the experience of our team, our chances of success are much, much higher than 10 percent,” Frank Watanabe, chief executive of Arcutis, told the Business Journal in May. “We already know our drug works; we already know our drug is safe. It’s one of the things that investors have found particularly attractive – this very unusual risk profile in the company,” he added. Market launch 2022 The Food and Drug Administration approved Phase 3 for ARQ-151 on Oct. 24, following a meeting about the end of its Phase 2 trial. If all goes according to plan, Phase 3 will start early next year; the company plans to file for approvals in 2021 and launch the product in 2022. Another notable factor that drew investors to Arcutis was its star-studded leadership team, led by Watanabe, who has 25-plus years of experience in biotech and pharmaceuticals. Watanabe has held leadership positions at Kythera Biopharmaceuticals Inc., Amgen Inc. and Eli Lilly & Co. Other executives come from Pfizer Inc. and Dow Pharmaceuticals. The most recent appointments include Keith Klein in November as Arcutis’ general counsel, who previously served in the same capacity at Kythera and Unity Biotechnology, as well as Kenneth Lock, Lynn Navale and Frank Pompilio as chief commercial officer, biometrics vice president and medical affairs vice president, respectively. “Their three roles are critical as we advance our multiple development programs, most significantly, starting our anticipated Phase 3 trials of ARQ-151,” Watanabe said in a statement on Oct. 30. “Combined with the institutional investor support and funding provided in our recent Series C financing, the addition of these talented leaders strengthens our ability to successfully execute our founding mission – to develop potential best-in-class product candidates that address unmet medical needs in immune-dermatology.” Lock has 23 years of global commercialization experience in the biopharma world at Gilead Sciences. He spearheaded the U.S. marketing of Amgen’s Enbrel to dermatologists. Polpilio also worked on the launch of Amgen’s Enbrel with its medical affairs team, bringing more than 23 years of experience from the MannKind Corp. as well as Amgen. Navale brings 20 years of clinical biostatistics experience through roles at Kite Pharma.

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