Metacrine Closes $65 Million Series C Round

Pile of money

Metracrine, based in San Diego, completed a Series C financing round worth $65 million. It was led by Venrock Healthcare Partners and included new investors Franklin Templeton Investments, Deerfield Management, Arrowmark Partners, Invus, Lilly Asia Ventures, Vivo Capital, and several undisclosed investors. Existing investors also participated, including Arch Venture Partners, venBio, Polaris Partners, NEA, and Alexandria Venture Investments.

The company to date has raised a total of $125 million in equity financing. It was founded in 2015.

Metacrine’s lead program is focused on the farnesoid X receptor (FXR), a promising target for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

Metacrine was one of BioSpace’s NextGen Bio Class of 2016 companies to watch. It was built on technology licensed from the laboratory of Ronald Evans at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the Salk Institute. It has two distinct programs, both targeting diabetes, NASH, as well as other metabolic and liver disorders.

Evans’ work involved the discovery of nuclear receptors and mechanisms of hormone signaling. Hormone receptors are involved in controlling sugar, salt, calcium and fat metabolism, as well as reproductive physiology. They are the primary targets of breast cancer, prostate cancer, leukemia, osteoporosis, inflammation and asthma.

As well as NASH, Metacrine has identified a potential role for FXR in diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-D) and inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

MET409 is its lead clinical candidate, a non-bile acid FXR agonist that has shown efficacy and a favorable safety profile in preclinical work.

“The strong interest from high-quality investors further validates the potential of MET409 for treating liver and gastrointestinal diseases,” said Ken Song, Metacrine’s president and chief executive officer, in a statement. “We have purposefully designed an industry-leading FXR agonist portfolio with the potential for best-in-class therapy in NASH and first-in-class therapies for IBS-D and IBD.”

NASH is similar to cirrhosis of the liver, but occurs in patients who do not drink much alcohol. It is related to the obesity epidemic and diabetes and currently has no approved therapies outside of diet and exercise. There are multiple components to the disease, including fatty liver, inflammation and fibrosis.

The company expects to use the Series C funds to advance its clinical development pipeline, including MET409, as well as to expand its pipeline through internal discovery efforts. It expects MET409 to begin a Phase I clinical trial later this month.

It was only six months ago that the company raised $65 million in a Series B round. The company was co-founded by Rich Heyman, who was behind biotech companies Aragon and Seragon, both of which sold for $1 billion in a single year.

Just yesterday, Nimbus Therapeutics, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, raised an additional $65 million in financing from investors Atlas Venture, SR One, Lilly Ventures, Bill Gates, Pfizer Venture Investments, Lightstone Ventures, and Schrodinger. In 2016, Nimbus sold off one of its subsidiaries, Nimbus Apollo, to Gilead Sciences for $400 million upfront. Nimbus Apollo’s program included NDI-010976, an ACC inhibitor to treat NASH.

Nimbus doesn’t focus solely on NASH. In fact, its business model is to develop subsidiary C corporations around each specific disease state, which allows it to make investment and partnership decisions based on an asset, as opposed to an entire pipeline. Still, it’s an indication of just how much interest there is in the biopharmaceutical industry in developing therapies for this unmet medical need.

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