Cutting-Edge Biotechs Raise Investors' Hopes: Exscientia and Boundless Bio
Investors are still hungry for cutting-edge biotech companies that can make a difference in people’s lives with the hope of a big return on investment. Here’s a look at two recent big funding rounds.
Exscientia Completes $225 Million Series D
Oxford, England-based Exscientia announced it had closed on a Series D funding round worth $225 million. The round was led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and joined by previous round lead investors, Novo Holdings and funds managed by Blackrock. Other investors were Mubadala Investment Company, Farallon Capital, Casdin Capital, GT Healthcare Capital, Marshall Wace, Pivotal bioVenture Partners, Laurion Capital, Hongkou and Bristol Myers Squibb. Softbank has also made an additional $300 million equity commitment.
Exscientia focuses on using artificial intelligence (AI) to design drugs. To date, it has advanced two fully-designed molecules into clinical trials and has more than 20 programs in its pipeline. The funds will be used to advance its pipeline into the clinic and to expand the tech platform toward “autonomous drug design.”
The company expanded its Series C round to $100 million in early March, which had an original goal of $60 million. At the time, BlackRock was the new investors.
“Exscientia is breaking ground in small molecule drug design, with a platform that radically improves drug discovery,” said William Abecassis, head of BlackRock’s biotech fund Innovation Capital, at the time. “We are thrilled to be investing in this world-class team, who are already delivering results with AI-designed drugs now entering clinical trials.”
Of the new investment, Andrew Hopkins, chief executive officer of Exscientia, said, “All of our investors share Exscientia’s vision to discover better drugs, faster, through AI and automation, our patient-first AI platform has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to precision design drugs that address patients’ needs. With the Series D completed, the quality and depth of our shareholder base allows us the freedom to continue to scale both our platform and pipeline.”
Boundless Raises Oversubscribed $105 Million Series B
San Diego-based Boundless Bio closed on an oversubscribed Series B financing worth $105 million. It plans to advance multiple ecDNA-directed programs into the clinic along with its companion diagnostics using the funds.
The round was co-led by RA Capital Management and Nextech. Participating investors were Fidelity Management & Research Company, Redmile Group, Wellington Management, Surveyor Capital, PFM Health Sciences, and Logos Capital. Also participating were current investors ARCH Venture Partners, City Hill Ventures, Vertex Ventures HC, GT Healthcare Capital Partners, Boxer Capital of Tavistock Group, and Alexandria Venture Investments.
As part of the financing, Jakob Love, Partner at Nextech, will join the Boundless board of directors.
Boundless Bio calls itself a next-generation precision oncology company. It is working to develop therapies against extrachromosomal DNA (ecDNA) in aggressive cancers. ecDNA are circular groupings of DNA that contain functional genes and are active transcriptionally. They are a primary driver of gene amplification and copy number heterogeneity in cancer—which is to say, in tumors, part of the uncontrolled cell grown often involves certain genes overproducing proteins and chromosomes being duplicated.
The company’s Spyglass technology platform uses proprietary ecDNA model systems with bespoke analytical tools to interrogate ecDNA cancer biology to find new cancer targets that are synthetically lethal in cancers driven by ecDNA.
“RA Capital has been following the Boundless Bio story for some time now and believes that the team has developed industry-leading expertise in the biology that underlies high unmet need, gene amplified tumors,” said Zach Scheiner, Principal at RA Capital Management. “Boundless Bio has shown ecDNA to be a driver of both tumor growth and resistance to targeted therapies, and the team is poised to make significant therapeutic advances in this exciting new field. We are pleased to support their efforts to help bring these potentially transformative therapies to patients in need.”
Earlier this month, the company presented data at the 2021 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting on their technology, related to ecDNA and its participation in tumors developing resistance to targeted therapy.
Zachary Hornby, president and chief executive officer of Boundless, said at the time, “The oncology field has long known that tumors with oncogene amplification are aggressive, lead to a poor prognosis, and are very difficult to treat. This study provides rationale for why patients with oncogene amplified tumors have not benefited from targeted therapies. We have demonstrated that ecDNA facilitate a powerful evasive mechanism of switching driver oncogenes when under targeted therapeutic pressure, thereby rendering targeted therapies futile against ecNDA-enabled, gene amplified cancer. Our findings underscore an urgent need and Boundless Bio’s focus in developing precision medicines targeting the underlying vulnerabilities of ecDNA.”