Atea Pharma to Launch Phase II Trial Against COVID-19 After Raising $215 Million Series D
Boston-based Atea Pharmaceuticals closed a $215 million Series D financing. The round was led by Bain Capital Life Sciences and included new investors RA Capital Management, Perceptive Advisors, Rock Springs Capital, Adage Capital Management, funds and accounts managed by T. Rowe Price Associates, Redmile Group, and Omega Funds. Existing investors including Morningside Ventures, Cormorant Asset Management, Ally Bridge Group and Sectoral Asset Management also participated.
At the same time, Atea announced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had given the go-ahead for its investigational new drug (IND) application for AT-527 for adults hospitalized with moderate COVID-19. AT-527 is a novel, oral, purine nucleotide prodrug, a direct acting antiviral that inhibits the RNA polymerase enzyme. The Phase II trial is scheduled to begin soon.
In addition to the COVID-19 development, the company plans to use the proceeds toward its pipeline of highly selective direct acting antivirals (DDAs) that target other severe RNA virus infections. The company pipeline includes antivirals against hepatitis C, dengue virus and respiratory syncytial virus.
“We are delighted to have the strong support of this group of blue-chip healthcare investors,” said Jean-Pierre Sommadossi, Atea’s founder, chairman and chief executive officer. “Atea’s portfolio is focused on developing novel, best-in-class, potent DAAs and we have shifted all of our immediate resources and our team’s deep expertise in virology and pharmacology to help address the unmet needs in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. An oral treatment for COVID-19 patients should prevent progression of the disease and may help lessen the burden on critical inpatient resources. Atea is moving rapidly, in concert with regulatory authorities, to determine if our oral DAA is a safe and effective therapeutic against COVID-19.”
In November 2018, the company presented positive data from a completed Phase IB/IIA trial of AT-527 in treatment-naïve hepatitis C patients, including HCV-infected patients with Child-Pugh A (CPA) cirrhosis.
At the time, Sommadossi said, “Despite the introduction of direct acting antiviral therapies in recent years, hepatitis C continues to represent a serious global health burden, particularly among GT-3 infected, cirrhotic and other difficult-to-treat patient populations.”
AT-527 is expected to be evaluated in 180 patients, comparing the drug in moderate COVID-19 patients against placebo. The drug was originally evaluated in hepatitis C, but Atea believes the drug’s ability to block viral RNA polymerase, which inhibits replication, could be effective against SARS-COV-2. The company has internal laboratory results supporting the theory.
The ClinialTrials.gov website indicates the objectives of the trial “are to evaluate the safety, tolerability and efficacy of AT-527 in older subjects (ages 45-80 years) with moderate COVID-19 and risk factors for poor outcomes (such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes or asthma).”
Atea continues to work on dengue and respiratory syncytial virus, but the three hepatitis C programs have been put on the back-burner because of the pandemic and work on COVID-19.
“Atea’s team has an outstanding track record in developing novel, potent DAAs, which we believe can contribute to the urgent fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and other RNA viruses,” said Andrew Hack, managing director of Bain Capital Life Sciences. “We are pleased to partner with Atea’s leadership team and an outstanding group of leading healthcare investors as Atea advances its diverse pipeline of transformative antiviral medicines.”