Money on the Move: Companies Rake in Cash During Week of JPM2021
Although the 39th annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference looked quite a bit different than the 38 before it held in San Francisco, the virtual conference still held plenty of wheeling and dealing for the biotech world. Here are the companies who found their zoom meetings with investors quite profitable.
Unveiled in July after years of working in stealth mode, Tessera is rewriting our genes to treat disease. Authoring therapeutic instructions into the genome takes cash and lots of it. This week Tessera brought in over $230 million in a Series B. By changing any gene base pair to another, inserting or deleting, and writing entire genes into the genome, the company hopes to unlock potential to cure genetic diseases and create life-changing therapeutics in cardiovascular, oncological, neurodegenerative and infectious diseases. The funds will be used to accelerate research and development in the company’s gene writing technologies, expand its team and establish manufacturing and automation capabilities critical for its platform and programs.
This Cambridge startup is looking to turn the drug industry on its head by bringing new, life-saving medicines to patients at a fraction of the cost of today’s leading therapies. The “remaking medicine” company announced a $500 million Series B financing to further their worthy cause. EQRx is busy building a highly competitive pipeline of drugs that has the potential to save the US healthcare system between 50-70% of its current drug spend. Initial targets are candidates for cancer and inflammatory diseases. Several late-stage drugs currently in development show promise in some of the most common cancers – lung, breast and other solid tumors.
Netherlands’ NewAmsterdam Pharma hauled in a healthy Series A with $196 million in funding. The clinical stage company is focused on therapy development for cardio-metabolic diseases. This chunk of change will help the company take its small molecule drug, obicetrapib, into full Phase III development. The drug is a cholesteryl ester transfer protein inhibitor for patients not well-controlled on statins. NewAmsterdam’s founding investor Forbion participated along with Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder and billionaire venture capitalist.
Gene editor Sana is dipping its toe into the Nasdaq, filing Wednesday to go public with the goal of raising up to $150 million. “Our long-term aspirations are to be able to control or modify any gene in the body, to replace any cell that is damaged or missing, and to markedly improve access to cellular and gene-based medicines,” the company wrote in its IPO prospectus. The approach has potential with a number of disease,s but most of the advanced research at Sana right now is focused on cancer. The company anticipated filing NDAs for multiple therapies soon, starting as early as 2022.
Potentially lowering the cost of cancer detection while identifying it earlier is the goal of Delfi’s tech, based off the research of founder and CEO Victor Velculescu. Delfi brought in a $100 million Series A round. Enhanced by machine learning technology, the biotech is developing cell-free DNA-based liquid biopsies to detect the presence of tumors and the tumor’s tissue of origin. The Series A funds will be used to build Delfi’s team and launch validation studies for its tech.
Working to transform drug discovery and development process, Valo unveiled select therapeutics programs and closed a $190 million Series B financing round. Combining the power of patient data and machine learning technology has allowed the rapid development of key preclinical programs. The company’s oncology portfolio includes hematological and solid tumor malignancies, brain tumors, c-myc driven cancers and particular solid tumors.
Boston-based Atalanta launched this week with $110 million in combined Series A funding and collaboration deals with Genentech and Biogen to address diseases related to the central nervous system, including Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The company believes its approach developing RNAi drugs using branched siRNA, a new type of molecular architecture, has the potential to overcome the challenges of brain and spinal cord medicine distribution. Preclinical research has shown that branched siRNA can achieve what Atalanta called “unparalleled distribution in the CNS,” which includes deep brain structures and prolonged duration of effect.
Drug conjugate company Elucida is targeting ovarian and brain cancers. The company’s C-Dots can precisely target and penetrate tumors to deliver the drug payload, then be safely cleared by the kidneys. With an additional $44 million in a Series A-1, the Elucida’s Series A total is now $72 million. The funding will be used to complete IND studies for the company’s lead candidate to get it into the clinic by late 2021, according to the CEO. Elucida has also partnered up to develop diagnostics and surgical applications based on the technology.
Granted breakthrough therapy designation by the FDA just last month, IO Biotech hit it big with over a $154 million Series B financing round. The designation is for the company’s combo therapies IO102 and IO103 with anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibodies for patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma. The designation will help expedite the development and review of IO’s drugs. The biotech intends to use the net proceeds of the transaction towards the funding of clinical trials for its early and late-stage immuno-oncology programs, including a large randomized trial for IO102 and IO103 with anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibodies in metastatic melanoma.
In a Series C financing round, DiCE secured $80 million to support the development of its first-in-class, oral IL-17 agonist and roll it into the clinic. 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. Other assets benefiting from the fund include a pair of integrin inhibitors, and plans to expand the pipeline using the same combo 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.
This bioengineering firm developed a new platform technology to give cancer patients their best chance at survival – early detection. With tech licensed from Standford, Earli is creating a platform called “Synthetic Biopsy.” The platform uses genetic constructs to force cancer to produce biomarkers not normally expressed in the human body. Clinicians can then exactly locate early cancers to begin treatment. After a $19.5 million seed investment in 2018, the biotech has now raised $40 million in a Series A round. "The Earli platform is radically different from other early cancer detection and treatment approaches. It makes early detection localizable and therefore actionable, which is the critical next step needed for success against cancer," said Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures who led the financing round. “We believe Earli has the potential to forever change the cancer playbook.”