Garuda Grabs Another $62M for Off-the-Shelf Stem Cell Therapies
Courtesy of Getty Images
One cell therapy to treat them all - or at least 120-plus different diseases. Garuda Therapeutics closed a $62 million Series B round Tuesday to support its off-the-shelf, self-renewing blood stem cell technology.
The Cambridge-based company is tackling the challenges of traditional stem cell therapy.
Using a patient's own depleted cells or seeking out a biological donor match is both costly and time prohibitive. Garuda’s proprietary hematopoietic stem cells could be the industry’s first off-the-shelf offering, leading to faster, more effective treatments and greater patient accessibility.
The biotech launched 15 months ago with $72 million in hand and the potential to use its cellular therapy to address and potentially cure over 70 diseases. The team has since identified 50 more targets ripe for stem cell treatment.
With such a huge list of potential targets, Garuda identified its endgame and reverse-engineered from there to determine its first targets, Dhvanit Shah, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO, told BioSpace.
The Series B funds will funnel into two programs slated to hit the clinic in 2024 - transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia (TDBT) in Europe and bone marrow failure syndrome in Europe, South America and North America in parallel, he said.
bluebird bio’s gene therapy for beta-thalassemia, Zynteglo, was approved in August 2022. However, the therapy is cost-prohibitive, to the point where European operations were shut down because “payers have not yet evolved their approach to gene therapy,” the company noted in its Q2, 2021 financial update.
Zynteglo’s 2019 price tag of 1.58 million euro (about $1.8 million) was due to its bespoke nature - each patient’s own bone marrow cells are modified before reinfusing. Conversely, off-the-shelf cell therapies are typically more cost-inclusive with faster treatment times.
The company will also leverage the cash infusion for development of its HLA-matched pluripotent stem cells – cells that are able to self-renew and develop into one of the three primary cell groups that make up the human body.
According to Shah, Garuda's approach "will allow production at a fraction of the cost of a bespoke approach," making it affordable for the global population.
The advance could be particularly important for patients who are in a racial minority group. According to a 2019 Harvard study, white Americans have a 77% chance of finding a donor on the National Marrow Donor Program’s “Be the Match” registry, while a Black patient’s likelihood falls around 23%.
Garuda’s latest raise was bolstered by Northpond Ventures, OrbiMed, Cormorant and Aisling Capital, along with "other elite investors and individuals.”
In the current market, investors are more hesitant to pull out their checkbooks. A CBRE survey found close to 60% of investors plan to buy less in 2023 in the face of rising rates and potential recession. Yet some biopharma companies are still finding funds for their projects.
Structure Therapeutics went public with an IPO over $161 million on Feb. 3, while new VC Patient Square Capital closed out its inaugural life sciences fund at $3.9 billion.