Money on the Move: January 27 – February 2

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The groundhog saw his shadow, meaning six more weeks of winter. But there's no freezing of funds in the biopharma world. Here's a recap of where life sciences cash has been flowing the past week.

Sana Biotechnology 

Initially filing for a $150 million IPO, Seattle-based Sana amended to a massive goal of $323 million, offering 15 million shares at $20 to $23 per share. Although the company is still at a preclinical stage, this IPO would value the company at a price of nearly $4.5 billion. Prime focuses of startup company Sana Biotechnology include the development of in vivo and ex vivo cell engineering platforms licensed from Harvard University to discover novel treatments across several therapeutic areas that currently have unmet treatment needs. Therapeutic areas of particular interest to the company include oncology, diabetes, central nervous system (CNS) disorders, cardiovascular diseases and genetic disorders. IND applications are anticipated in 2022 and 2023. Last summer Sana raised $700 million in initial financing

Design Therapeutics 

Launched last March with $45 million to create a new class of disease-modifying therapies, Design Therapeutics secured another $125 million this week in a Series B. “In the short time since our launch, Design Therapeutics has made significant progress in the advancement of our novel GeneTAC platform focused on addressing the underlying causes of serious degenerative diseases,” said João Siffert, M.D., president and chief executive officer of Design Therapeutics. “This capital raise provides important resources to efficiently advance our pipeline, including our lead programs in Friedreich ataxia and myotonic dystrophy type-1.” Proceeds will be used to advance the GeneTAC platform to develop a pipeline of GeneTAC molecules with an initial focus on nucleotide repeat expansion disorders, including Friedreich ataxia. Design hopes to be in the clinic by the first half of 2022. 

Nuvalent 

Launching with a $50 million Series A, Nuvalent is tackling the most common type of lung cancer – NSCLC. The funds raised will fuel Nuvalent’s R&D efforts toward building a portfolio of innovative small molecule kinase inhibitors for programs in NSCLC. Therapeutic agents include a potential best-in-class ROS1-selective inhibitor, NUV-520, and an ALK-selective inhibitor, NUV-655. The company’s first lead program involving NUV-520 will examine the molecules efficacy in treating advanced NSCLC, particularly cases that have developed resistance to treatment, driven by a ROS1 fusion. The first Phase I/II trial investigating the potential therapy in NSCLC is expected for the second half of this year. Another program targeting NSCLC tumors driven by an ALK fusion is anticipated in 2022. 

Ukko 

On a mission to eliminate food allergies and sensitivities, a massive needs market, Ukko scooped up $40 million in a Series B round. Using an AI-driven protein engineering platform, the company is developing a promising investigational therapy for peanut allergies. Ukko is also working on an improved gluten for people with Celiac disease and other gluten sensitivities to be able to enjoy. Data on both of these programs suggest these do not trigger allergic responses in the immune systems of patients. The new funding will take Ukko to clinical trial with its peanut allergy therapeutic. Pharma-giant Bayer was a lead investor in the round.

Cellino 

Artificial intelligence is impacting the future of every industry, and the life sciences industry is no different. Using image-guided machine learning AI, Cambridge-based Cellino is guiding automated cell reprogramming, expansion and differentiation. Launched in 2017, the company just completed a $16 million seed round to enable its induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) engineering platform, powered by artificial intelligence. Autologous iPSCs – cells taken from a patient, engineered for therapeutic benefit and returned to the patient – have been in clinical testing since 2014, but none have reached regulatory approval. Cellino’s platform will allow it to precisely steer iPSCs to a target tissue state. 

Endogena 

Discovering and developing regenerative medicines from within, Endogena brought in $8 million in a Series A financing round last week. Focused on novel treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, the funds will help its lead program aimed at retinitis pigmentosa to establish clinical proof-of-concept. Endogena’s AI-driven platform is a combination of stem cell research and small molecule drug discovery. The company also hopes to advance its age-related macular degeneration program to an IND. 

AffyXell 

Established last January to develop novel mesenchymal stem cell therapies, AffyXell closed a Series A for $7.3 million to develop its pipeline of next-gen cell and gene therapies. The biotech combines Avacta Therapeutics’ Affimer platform with Daewoong Pharmaceutical’s MSC platform to genetically modify stem cells to secrete Affimer proteins that enhance the therapeutic effects of the MSC. Funds from the series will be used for further development of therapies that will suppress immune response and restore balance for inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.  

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