Money on the Move: July 14 – 21
More money means more progress for potentially life-saving therapies. Here's a peek at some biopharma companies adding to their books this week.
The drive to join the Nasdaq continues as weight management drug maker Gelesis merges with Capstar Special Purpose Acquisition Corp. to go public. The deal will provide Gelesis with up to $376 million to fund the commercial launch of Plenity later this year and value the combined company at over a billion dollars. Plenity contains a biomimetic hydrogel that is not absorbed so it can act locally in the GI tract. Patients take before meals to feel satisfied with smaller meals. With the broadest BMI range available for a prescription weight-management aid, over 150 million Americans could be eligible for treatment.
At its founding, Wugen’s focus was off-the-shelf CAR-T therapy. But its memory NK, natural killer cell program is what’s taken off, demonstrating an “impressive complete response rate in relapsed/refractory AML” in an ongoing Phase I/II trial. Last week the company raised a massive $172 million Series B to propel its therapies through clinical trials. Its NK program also plans to go where CAR-T therapies cannot – into solid tumors.
Focused on preserving neurons to prevent degradation in neurodegenerative diseases, Amylyx has been making waves in the ALS community. Its oral therapy is a combination of two neuroprotective molecules – sodium phenylbutyrate and taurursodiol – that together block stress signals within mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum to prevent cell death. A Phase II/III trial showed a slower rate of decline in muscle strength and lung function, in addition to fewer hospitalizations compared with those getting a placebo. A long-term survival benefit was also shown from starting early with AMX0035. Amylyx is already seeking approval in Canada and soon will in the EU, while launching a Phase III in the US. Yesterday’s $135 million Series C raise will support the candidate through its late-stage development.
Seattle-based Shape has a suite of platforms to enable RNA targeting, editing and replacement for patients diagnosed with genetic disorders. With a $112 million Series B raise, Shape will support its growing portfolio of RNA technologies while accelerating treatments for “a wide range of therapeutic areas, such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and Rett syndrome," said CEO Francois Vigneault. Shape's proprietary RNA technologies utilize machinery that's already present in human cells to efficiently and safely correct genetic mutations while keeping immunogenicity and DNA damage to a minimum to zero.
One of BioSpace’s NextGen Bio “Class of 2021” startups to watch, Kriya closed on a $100 million Series B. Its pipeline includes multiple AAV-based gene therapies for type 1 and type 2 diabetes, severe obesity, and other indications. Last August, Kriya secured a manufacturing facility in Research Triangle Park to manufacture its gene therapies via scalable suspension cell culture process.
Launched in 2019 with $67 million, Frontier scooped up another $88.5 million this week. The biotech is advancing its lead inhibitor against KRASG12C, a protein mutation found prevalently in patients with non-small cell lung, colorectal and pancreatic cancer. The ability to target both active and inactive states of KRASG12C with a small molecule is a “long-awaited scientific breakthrough” according to Frank McCormick, a professor at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center specializing in KRAS biology and a member of Frontier’s Scientific Advisory Board. Frontier will also use the funds to expand into Boston with a “state-of-the-art facility” focused on R&D, pre-clinical development, translational medicine, and early clinical development.
Filing before the weekend hit, Eliem is hoping for an $80 million IPO raise. Focused on central nervous system disorders, the funds would be used for its Phase II candidates, one currently focused on diabetic neuropathy and sciatica pain. The company is also assessing a novel GABAA receptor positive allosteric modulator in patients with major depressive disorder and hormone-related depressive disorders. Topline data is expected in the first half of 2022. Eliem has been raking in the cash this year since its uncloaking in March with $80 million, plus a $60 million Series B in May.
Neuromodulation device company NeuSpera took in $65 million yesterday in a Series C round. Proceeds will fund the company’s pivotal study for its miniaturized implantable neuromodulation technology platform for use in subjects with Urinary Urgency Incontinence, a symptom of overactive bladder. The company's implantable devices are hermetically sealed and 100 times smaller than devices that use a traditional battery source to reduce procedure complexity and patient complications.
AI-driven therapy design has gained in popularity as data-driven development cuts time and cost to develop therapies more likely to work in the clinic. California-based Entos brought in $53 million last week to support its breakthrough AI and quantum mechanics-driven drug design efforts. The funds raised will be used to accelerate Entos' OrbNet, its AI platform that creates a thousand-fold acceleration in molecular properties prediction with 100 times less training data necessary. It will also be utilized to finance massive hiring plans to strengthen further the company's lineup of engineering and science talent.
This startup secured a $30 million Series A to propel a line of therapeutics in the emerging field of autophagy. Autophagy is the body’s natural process for clearing out damaged or dying cells to regenerate newer, healthier ones. The Cambridge-based company’s first focus is developing novel autophagosome-tethering compounds that can catalyze the degradation of damaged cells for an undisclosed genetic neurodegenerative disorder. PAQ says its approach has the potential to treat a range of diseases that currently have not therapeutic options.