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Cambridge startup KSQ raises another $80m, plans to start trials of cancer drugs

Dr. David Meeker became chief executive of KSQ last October.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/file 2015

Dr. David Meeker, the former head of Cambridge-based Sanofi Genzyme, appears not to have wasted any time in his year as head of KSQ Therapeutics, a biotech startup trying to develop cancer medicines.

KSQ, also based in Cambridge, is expected to say Friday that it has raised another $80 million in venture capital on top of $76 million it previously collected. In addition, the biotech has started a dozen oncology drug discovery programs, including one it hopes to begin testing on patients in clinical trials within 18 months.

“The message for the world is we’ve gone from last year, where we were doing studies, to now, where we have 12 programs moving forward,” said Meeker, a 63-year-old Vermont native and onetime pulmonary critical care physician at Cleveland Clinic.


Meeker stepped down as head of Sanofi Genzyme in June 2017. He was a protege of longtime Genzyme Corp. chief executive Henri Termeer, an industry pioneer who built the company into the largest life sciences employer in Massachusetts before it was sold in 2011 to French drug giant Sanofi SA for more than $20 billion. Termeer retired that year and Sanofi named Meeker executive vice president and head of its Genzyme division.

Last October, Meeker became chief executive of KSQ, which is located in (and whose name stands for) Kendall Square. The company is using a patented drug discovery tool to quickly pinpoint which of the 20,000 human genes make the best targets for drugs to treat cancer and malfunctions in the immune system — and then to develop those drugs.

Using the tool, called CRISPRomics, the company says it is uncovering the most relevant therapeutic targets while ruling out thousands of less relevant ones.

KSQ was founded in 2015 by Dr. David Sabatini of the Whitehead Institute and MIT, Dr. William Hahn of the Broad Institute and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Jonathan Weissman of the UCSF School of Medicine, and Tim Wang of MIT. Flagship Pioneering and Polaris Partners were the founding investors.


The chief scientific officer is Frank Stegmeier, a leading expert in functional genomics who led oncology target discovery at Novartis before joining KSQ. The company has more than 70 employees, nearly twice as many as a year ago, Meeker said.

Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jsaltzman@globe.com