Biopharma Money on the Move: December 30 - January 5
A quick overview of the life sciences companies starting the year off bringing in cash.
Ikena is developing patient-directed, biomarker-driven cancer therapies for more precise, personalized treatments. In an oversubscribed Series B, the Boston company brought in $120 million. The funds will be used to advance Ikena’s pipeline of targeted oncology therapies, including its novel development candidate TEAD inhibitor IK-930, and a new first-in-class preclinical program targeting KRAS signaling. KRAS mutations show up in approximately 30% of all human cancers. Ikena’s candidate is targeting an undisclosed component of drug resistance in cancer. Hopes are to initiate IND-enabling studies in the second half of 2021.
Philadelphia-based Aro scooped up $88 million in a Series A to enter the clinic with its lead candidate 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. “By exploiting new mechanisms of action, Centyrin-RNA conjugates have the potential to achieve superior efficacy and safety in treating intractable diseases,” CEO Susan Dillon said in a statement.
With a focus on NASH and other chronic liver disease, Terns raised $87 million to advance clinical trials across its pipeline. The market potential for NASH therapies is huge, as there are currently no FDA-approved medications for the treatment of NASH. Doctors can currently only recommend lifestyle changes and vitamin E to patients. Terns has three lead NASH programs anticipating clinical milestones in the near future. The company’s drug focus is on small-molecule, single-agent and combination therapies.
With a platform developed at the Salk Institute, IconOVir launched with a $77 million Series A to take on cancer. The program relies on oncolytic viruses to take on cancer. Researchers developed ways to modify the viruses to make them tumor-selective so they can be injected intravenously rather than into the tumor itself. The lead asset, IOV-1042 was derived from the common cold virus. IconOVir plans to get it into the clinic in early 2022. IOV-1042 has shown promising results in preclinical research by killing a broad range of tumor cells, including head and neck, bladder, lung, and breast with potentially a wide range of tumor indications.
Developing immunologic therapeutics and diagnostics to “make the world a healthier place,” Revelation revealed a $9.1 million Series A to develop lead candidates. REVTx-99 is a therapy targeting a variety of viral infections, including COVID-19. A Phase I study has been approved to commence in Australia. EVDx-501 is the company’s diagnostic candidate in development for upper respiratory viral infections, also including COVID-19. Funds will also be used to investigate additional indications for REVTx-99.
Madrona Venture Group
Life sciences companies in the Pacific Northwest can gear up for an influx of cash as Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group announced two funds totaling $500 million on the last day of 2020. The Madrona Fund 8 will support startups with seed and Series A investments. The company’s Acceleration Fund 2 is focused on teams that have found product-market fit and are at a Series B or C stage. Madrona Managing Director Matt McIlwain said the funds will follow its core investment theme that includes “the intersection of machine learning and life sciences,” as well as next-generation software companies.
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