Money Matters: More than $350 Million Raised to Advance Novel Therapeutics

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Three biopharma companies, DiCE Molecules, Affinivax and LifeMine Therapeutics, raised a combined total of more than $350 million to advance research and development of multiple therapies. BioSpace provides a brief look at the funds raised and what the finances will be used to address.

DiCE Molecules – Bay Area-based DiCE Molecules secured $80 million in a Series C financing round that will be used to support development of the company’s first-in-class, oral IL-17 antagonist and help drive them into the clinic.

According to the company, DiCE’s drug discovery platform leverages a proprietary DNA-encoded library (DEL) technology, combined with unique structural insights, to generate small molecule antagonists against a range of protein-protein-interface (PPI) targets.

Kevin Judice, chief executive officer of DiCE, said the financing will allow the company to accelerate the development of its IL-17 program through multiple milestones.  The IL-17 family of cytokines are strong inducers of inflammation and are implicated in a variety of autoimmune diseases including psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, the company said.

In addition to the company’s lead program, Judice said the company will use the funds to advance other assets, including a pair of integrin inhibitors, and also to expand our pipeline using the same combination of technology and structural insights.

“We believe the immunology space is underserved by current small molecule approaches and we are excited about the opportunity to advance next-generation therapeutics for this patient population,” Judice said in a statement.

The Series C was led by RA Capital Management with participation from new investors including Eventide Asset Management, New Leaf Venture Partners, Soleus Capital, Driehaus Capital Management, Osage University Partners and Asymmetry Capital Management. Existing investors Northpond Ventures, Sands Capital, Sanofi Ventures, Alexandria Venture Investments, Altitude Life Science Ventures and Agent Capital also participated.

Affinivax Inc. – Cambridge, Mass.-based Affinivax secured $226 million in a Series C financing round that will be used to continue advancing the company’s MAPS vaccine pipeline for a range of infectious diseases, including its lead pneumococcal vaccine candidates and first-in-class vaccine candidates that are used to target healthcare-associated infections.

The company’s MAPS technology platform is designed to enable the development of a new class of vaccines that induce a broad and robust protective immune response to two key immunogenic components – disease-relevant polysaccharides and disease-relevant proteins – in a single vaccine, according to Affinivax.

The Series C was co-led by new investors Rock Springs Capital and Foresite Capital. Additional new investors included T. Rowe Price, Wellington Management, funds and accounts managed by Blackrock, Cormorant Asset Management, Perceptive Advisors, EcoR1 Capital, Surveyor Capital (a Citadel company) and Logos Capital, who were joined by existing investors Viking Global Investors, Bain Capital Life Sciences and Ziff Capital Healthcare Ventures.

“We are very pleased to welcome Rock Springs Capital, Foresite Capital, and this high-quality group of new investors to Affinivax who share our bold and global vision for the company,” Steven B. Brugger, CEO of Affinivax said in a statement. “In addition to recognizing what we have already accomplished in advancing our MAPS platform to clinical validation, their strong commitment will support our aim to advance a new class of vaccines to protect children and adults against many challenging and resistant infectious diseases.”

LifeMine Therapeutics – In a Series B financing round, Cambridge, Mass.-based LifeMine Therapeutics raised $50 million that will be used to accelerate and expand its drug discovery efforts and drive the company’s assets into the clinic. LifeMine’s drug discovery platform is designed to rapidly discover novel small molecule therapies via interrogation of the fungal biosphere. Given their evolutionary proximity to humans, fungi have been an important source of radically impactful medicines.

LifeMine has identified a growing pipeline of novel, potentially high-impact drug candidates, with an initial focus on highly impactful precision medicines in oncology and immune modulation.

Gregory Verdine, co-founder, CEO and chief scientific officer of LifeMine, said the company’s aim is to not bring nice medicines into the world, but to “shake the field of drug discovery to its very foundations and create a new way of discovering drugs having unsurpassed speed and scalability.” Since its founding, LifeMine has amassed one of the largest fungal strain collections in the world, he said.

“And in short order these fungi have provided a source for a rapidly growing pipeline of novel drug candidates in oncology, T cell mediated immune disorders and other therapeutic areas having high unmet medical need,” Verdine said in a statement.

The financing was led by Rick Klausner and Milky Way Investments, with participation from existing investors GV (formerly Google Ventures), WuXi Healthcare Ventures, Foresite Capital, Arch Ventures, Blue Pool Capital, and MRL Ventures Fund.

With the completion of the Series B financing, LifeMine has now raised more than $120 million from leading life science investors since the company’s founding in 2017.

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