Money on the Move: March 31 – April 6
April springs up with showers of cash for these life sciences companies.
No weakness could cut off this biotech’s IPO plans. Achilles closed its IPO this week with a fresh $175.5 million. Building T-cell therapies unique to each patient’s tumor, the company has its lead drug now in the clinic, testing in non-small cell lung cancer. Approval has also been given for a melanoma trial for the drug. The IPO funds will push ATL001 further along in the clinic and bring more of its pipeline along the same route.
Genome-engineer Inscripta had a big week with the first commercial buyer of its Onyx CRISPR gene-editing platform alongside the closing of a $150 million Series E financing round. According to Inscripta, Onyx is “the world’s first benchtop system for scalable digital genome engineering and consists of a benchtop instrument, consumables, software and assays.” The platform aims to bring CRISPR gene-editing technology to scientists everywhere. The VC round will support efforts to grow the company and further develop its technology and widen distribution.
Entrenched in intracellular delivery of biologics, Entrada scooped up $116 million in Series B financing. to advance a pipeline of intracellular oligonucleotide, antibody and enzyme-based therapeutics. Included are several oligonucleotide programs for neuromuscular disease with a Duchenne muscular dystrophy candidate in the lead. Entrada’s proprietary platform, Endosomal Escape Vehicle, will also be expanding beyond neuromuscular into additional areas of need.
California-based Scribe jots down another $100 million Series B on the books just six months after recording a $20 million Series A. Founded alongside Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D., the CRISPR pioneer, Scribe will utilize the funds to support gene editing and delivery tech while propelling treatments in the pipeline for neurodegeneration and other disease. Scribe engineers CRISPR molecules like a good baker makes bread – from scratch. This addresses safety, efficacy and off-target effects seen in traditional CRISPR. The pipeline is still in discovery stage so details are scant, but areas it could be useful are neurological disease, genetic forms of blindness, blood disorders and more. Scribe scored the #18 spot on BioSpace’s NextGen Bio “Class of 2021” list.
Hoping for a shower of cash, Rain filed for a $100 million IPO last Friday. Last year the biotech tripled its pipeline, including in-licensed RAIN-32 from Daiichi Sankyo. RAIN-32, previously completed Phase I testing in patients with solid tumors or lymphomas. The influx of cash will support a pivotal Phase III trial in liposarcoma, which Rain intends to launch this year, plus two more Phase II trials in solid tumors and intimal sarcoma, respectively.
Backed by PayPal’s Peter Thiel, three-year-old Alloy closed a $75 million Series C to advance platforms to turn ideas into biological medicines. Just as two metals are combined to make a strong, better metal alloy, this biotech is building an “ecosystem of collaboration across the biopharma community to reduce the barriers of translation and make better medicines together.” Alloy democratizes access to tools and technologies through its over 70 partners and its ATX-Gx platform for human antibody discovery. This week’s proceeds will extend the platforms and services into adjacent biologic modalities and expand Alloy’s global reach.
Oncology startup Volastra made waves this week, inking a deal with Microsoft and upping its seed funding round from $12 million to $44 million. The deal is to develop unique digital pathology tools for oncology. The additional funds will support the continued build-out of Volastra’s technology platform, which exploits unique insights into chromosomal instability (CIN) to rapidly identify and validate novel targets to block metastasis. The financing will advance Volastra’s “bold vision to change the treatment paradigm for patients with metastatic cancers.” In the US alone, 350,000 patients are diagnosed with metastatic cancer.
Philly-based Mineralys launched with a $40 million Series A after the FDA accepted the biotech’s app for Phase II proof-of-concept testing for its lead asset, MLS-101. Targeting hypertension, the aldosterone synthase inhibitor was in-licensed from Mitsubishi Tanabe Corporation and has previously been shown to lower plasma levels of aldosterone in a Phase I safety and tolerability study in healthy people. Aldosterone has been proven to play a leading role in a minimum of 30% of hypertension cases. Funds raised will take MLS-101 through the clinical trial phase.
Discovering antibodies from patients who respond well to cancer immunotherapies, OncoResponse roped in over $40 million to advance its lead antibody to the clinic. OR2805 is in development for multiple tumor types. “OR2805 was derived from a cancer patient who had an exceptional response to anti-PD-1 therapy and relieves the immunosuppressive effect of macrophages found in the [tumor microenvironment] to promote tumor killing by T cells,” CEO Clifford Stocks said. “We will be entering clinical studies in multiple tumor types later this year.”
In support of its Phase II onco-dermatology trial, OnQuality raised $20 million in Series A+ funding. OnQuality’s lead candidate, OQL011 is the first targeted cancer supportive care therapy for VEGFRi-associated Hand Foot Skin Reaction (HFSR), a severe side-effect that causes severe skin rashes on the hands and feet. The topical ointment targets the VEGFR inhibitor-associated toxicity in the skin, blocking selected pathways to restore normal VEGFR signals in the hands and feet. Funds should provide for a later-stage trial and advance other pipeline candidates.