Biopharma Execs Adopt Creative Mindset at BIO CEO

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As biopharma executives sought funding last week at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference, the strategic mindset could be summed up in three words: flexibility, creativity and concession. 

Seeking a Series C

Salt Lake City-based Halia Therapeutics is working to close a $50 million Series C round to drive its lead asset, an NLRP3 inflammasome activator called HT-6184, through Phase II clinical trials.

Jeff Burton, CFO, told BioSpace the company expects to launch Phase II trials of HT-6184 in “four-to-five” indications in gastroenterology and oncology in late 2023.

With the asset's wide-ranging therapeutic potential, the team knew they needed to raise another round, but it wasn’t the right time for an initial public offering.  

Jeff Burton_Halia Therapeutics
Jeff Burton

Also, “The IPO window seemed to open and shut every few months,” Burton said. 

Halia opted to raise a Series C to generate enough data to either go public or explore a merger or acquisition.  

After launching the round in December 2022, the company has so far raised at least 50% of the funds from existing investors and sought to pull together the second half at BIO CEO, Burton said. 

While Halia initially expected to do two closings with this round, Burton said the company has had to switch to rolling closes due to the current economic situation.

“Groups have had to fluctuate or change their investment either up or down multiple times, so it has not been as easy or quick as our last two rounds,” he added.

On Friday, he shared that meetings were going well.    

Burton said he’s lucky because “the science we have is very exciting.”

It also resonates with investors of all stripes.

“We don't speak with a single potential investor, adviser or researcher that doesn't have a vested interest in a particular disease that's driven by chronic inflammation,” he said.

Overall, everyone is trying to be creative with the deals they are doing, Burton said.

“Others…have had to make changes to either their valuations or had to maybe give up a board seat or some type of control they didn’t want to.” 

Kintara Eyes Grant Funding

San Diego-based Kintara Therapeutics has been a public company for 10 years. Scott Praill has served as CFO for the same, celebrating his ten-year anniversary in January.

At BIO CEO, he said that Kintara’s chief executive, Robert Hoffman, was looking for non-diluted sources of funding, which might come in the form of a partnership.

Scott Praill_Kintara Therapeutics
Scott Praill

But Praill acknowledged that the market is more difficult at the moment.

“With certain geopolitical things going on and the general state of the markets, it does make it more challenging,” he said. “People are more discerning. They're more patient.”

With Kintara’s current development timeline, Praill said a partnership would often come with some type of upfront payment.

The company’s pipeline is focused on two anti-cancer compounds, VAL-083 and REM-001. VAL-083 is currently in a registrational trial for glioblastoma.

Glioblastoma can be a hard sell, though.

“It really depends on the indication to certain extent,” Praill said. “With something like ovarian cancer, there’s just a lot more entities involved, a lot of big pharma looking for pipeline.”

Fewer companies have neuro-oncology platforms or divisions, he said.

In October 2022, the company paused work on REM-001 in cutaneous metastatic breast cancer (CMBC) to fully resource the glioblastoma program, which Praill said is Kintara’s “key near-term event.”

Kintara anticipated saving $3 million through the end of 2023, when the company expects a key glioblastoma readout.

To restart the CMBC program, Praill said Kintara has its eye on grant funding.

“There's a dizzying array of opportunities out there for grant funding,” he said, naming public institutions such as the National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health, along with private foundations. 

Codagenix Closes $25M Series B Extension

Robert Coleman_Codagenix
Robert Coleman, Ph.D.

Codagenix, a mid-sized company with clinical-stage vaccines for COVID-19, RSV and flu, announced the completion of a Series B extension Wednesday. 

The $25 million round consists of funds from several investors, including the Serum Institute of India. 

Robert Coleman, Ph.D., CEO of Codagenix, spoke about the successful round in the current financing climate.

“I think both our insiders and new investors recognize that Codagenix is on an amazing growth trajectory combined with a capital efficient structure and culture,” he said.

Coleman added that the company will have multiple clinical data cards flip in the next 18 months.

“This too allows for multiple ‘shots on goal’ and mitigates risk for current and future investors.” 

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