Two Companies Ring in 2021 with Cash for Cancer and Rare Diseases

2021 Money

In the first week of the new year, two companies raised more than $150 million in separate Series A financing rounds to fund research programs aimed at developing treatments for cancer and rare diseases.

San Diego-based IconOVir Bio raised $77 million in its Series A. IconOVir was founded by Arie Belldegrun’s Two River Group, the team that founded Kite Pharma, Inc., Allogene Therapeutics, Inc., and Kronos Bio, Inc. IconOVir will be helmed by Mark McCamish, who previously served as president and chief executive officer of Forty Seven, Inc., which was acquired by Gilead Sciences last year.

“We are committed to designing and developing the next generation of high-potency, tumor-selective oncolytic viruses that can be used in a wide variety of solid tumors, including metastatic disease. This can address the major limitations of the only currently marketed oncolytic virus therapy,” McCamish said in a statement.

The preclinical-stage biotech company is pioneering the next generation of oncolytic virus therapy to improve the treatment of patients with cancer. IconOVir has developed a proprietary platform to create next-generation oncolytic viruses based on research by Scientific Founder Clodagh O’Shea, of the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences. IconOVir’s discovery pipeline of multiple differentiated oncolytic virus candidates have the potential to be potent, tumor-selective, administered intravenously and broadly infect tumor cells, the company said in its announcement.

IconOVir’s lead candidate, IOV-1042 is derived from the common cold virus. Preclinical research has shown that IOV-1042 infects and kills a broad range of tumor cells, including head and neck, bladder, lung and breast, suggesting that it could have potential utility in a wide range of solid tumor indications. IconOVir expects to submit an Investigational New Drug Application for IOV-1042 in the first half of 2022.

The Series A financing round was co-led by Nextech and Vida Ventures, with participation from Two River Group, Bellco Capital, Polaris Partners, GV, Wellington Partners Venture Capital and Logos Capital.

McCamish said the Series A funds should be sufficient enough to advance the company’s product candidates into the clinic over the next 18 to 24 months.

In Philadelphia, Aro Biotherapeutics secured $88 million in a Series A to advance its unique class of Centyrin-conjugated RNA therapies into the clinic to treat rare genetic and immune disorders. The company’s Centyrin-conjugated RNA therapies are designed to selectively target RNA medicines to the specific site of disease.

Centyrins are small, exceptionally stable, engineered human proteins with several unique properties that make them ideally suited to target receptors on specific cells and deliver complex drug payloads to specific disease sites.

Susan Dillon, co-founder and chief executive officer of Aro, said her company is poised to deliver on the promise of its Centyrin platform, which will enable more efficient and precise delivery of RNA drugs to extra-hepatic tissues.

“By exploiting new mechanisms of action, Centyrin-RNA conjugates have the potential to achieve superior efficacy and safety in treating intractable diseases,” Dillon said in a statement.

Aro’s Series A was led by Northpond Ventures and Cowen Healthcare Investments, with participation from HealthCap, BVF Partners L.P., and Ridgeback Capital. Existing investors, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc. (JJDC), BioMotiv, LLC, and Ionis Pharmaceuticals.

“We greatly appreciate the confidence our investors have in our vision. With their support, we can rapidly progress the development of our innovative drug discovery pipeline and ultimately deliver transformative genetic medicines to patients that desperately need them,” Dillon added.

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