Money on the Move: May 5 - 11

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Catch up on the investment news quickly with BioSpace's brief overview of the biotech companies hitting the Nasdaq and raking in fresh cash the past week.  

Ginkgo Bioworks 

Going public is all the rage in the biotech space, and Ginkgo Bioworks is taking the fast train via special acquisition company (SPAC) Soaring Eagle Acquisition Corp. The “organism company” has its hand in a variety of markets, starting in fragrance, then food and agriculture and since expanding into antibiotics, vaccines, therapeutics and enzymes. The company landed a $1.1 billion loan for COVID-19 testing and to manufacture raw materials for potential therapies last year. This SPAC deal is one of the biggest, expecting to raise $2.5 billion in proceeds and valuing the combined company at $17.5 billion. 

Science 37

Also jumping aboard the SPAC train is clinical trial company Science 37. Merging with LifeSci Acquisitions II Corp to hit the Nasdaq, the deal will raise $280 million in gross proceeds and leave the company with a valuation of over $1 billion. Science 37 conducts decentralized clinical studies for clients and has 95 trials under its belt since its inception in 2014. Funds from the merger will be used to finance its decentralized trial technology platform, extend into new adjacencies, and power the next generation in clinical research. Science 37 intends to establish a Diversity in Clinical Research Foundation to make clinical trial research more accessible to underserved patient populations. 

Nuvalent Inc.  

Less than four months after emerging from stealth mode with $50 million in the pocket, cancer startup Nuvalent completed another financing round, this time in a $135 million Series B. The sole investor in the company’s launch, Deerfield Management, participated with round leader Bain Capital Life Sciences and some new investors. Funds are funneling into the company’s lead programs: NVL-520 and NVL-655. Each a potentially best-in-class kinase inhibitor, the first targets ROS1-driven tumors and the other ALK-driven. Both drugs are in IND enabling studies and are designed to address the identified clinical needs of kinase selectivity, brain penetrance, and activity against drug resistance.   

Aetion  

Using technology to understand the safety, efficacy, and value of drugs in the real world, RWE leader Aetion scooped up a $110 million Series C to advance its Evidence Platform.  Having raised $212 million to date, Aetion close to doubled revenue last year while retaining 100% of current customers and adding new. The New York-based health care company landed the first collaboration agreement with the FDA to study COVID-19 research. In addition to growing the capabilities of the Aetion Evidence Platform, the company will also expand its European and Asian-Pacific footprint and increase its commercial team to meet growing demand from the majority of top global biopharma firms and leading regulatory agencies. 

Jasper Therapeutics 

Taking the SPAC route to the Nasdaq, Jasper is combining with Amplitude Health Acquisition Corp. The deal keeps up to $100 million in a trust at Amplitude along with a public investment in private equity financing of another $100 million.  Lead program, JSP191 is currently in an early-stage safety trial for patients with acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes and severe combined immunodeficiency. Cash from the deal will advance JSP191 through clinical development and also advance the company’s preclinical Engineered Hematopoietic Stem Cell (eHSCs) platform. Using mRNA or DNA editing, the platform is designed to overcome the biggest limitations of allogeneic and autologous gene-edited stem cell grafts.   

Dyno Therapeutics 

Since emerging from stealth mode in 2020 with multiple collaborations in place with big pharma companies, Dyno Therapeutics now bolstered its research with $100 million raised in a Series A financing round. The Cambridge company is advancing its CapsidMap platform, which leverages the power of artificial intelligence to improve the design of gene therapies and make them safer, more effective and applicable to more diseases. Funds from the Series A will be used to expand the CapsidMap platform to broaden the functionality and improve the therapeutic impact of the gene therapies developed by its partners, Novartis, Roche and Sarepta Therapeutics.  

Day One Biopharmaceuticals

San Francisco-based Day One Biopharmaceuticals is taking the more traditional route to the market with a $100 million IPO. Founded in 2018, the biotech has raised $190 million in the last 12 months alone. Its first drug, aimed at pediatric cancer in the brain, is a brain-penetrating, highly selective type II pan-rapidly accelerated fibrosarcoma kinase inhibitor designed to fight brain and spine cancers. A Phase II trial is anticipated soon for children with relapsed or progressive low-grade glioma, the most common brain tumor for kids. The hope is for an NDA filing in 2023. 

Valneva

French vaccine developer Valneva went public this week, completing a $93.5 million IPO. Valneva has a COVID-19 vaccine in the pipeline. Its stock prices were bolstered recently as big-name Moderna and BioNTech fell amidst President Biden’s announcement in support of waiving the intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines in an effort to stop the pandemic. Valneva plans to use the proceeds to develop its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, VLA2001, and two additional vaccines – one to prevent Lyme disease and another to fight chikungunya virus, usually spread by mosquitos. 

Cellares Corporation 

Automating cell therapy manufacturing, Cellares raked in an $82 million Series A last week, bringing funding to $100 million to date. The fresh dollars will support the development of the company’s “factory-in-a-box.” Cellaris’ Cell Shuttle enables complete automation of highly individualized cell therapies, including the increasingly popular CAR-T therapies which use the patient’s own immune system to attack blood cancer cells. This automated solution would cut costs for autologous cell therapies by up to 75% and can produce 10 patient doses simultaneously, significantly reducing the time from initial cell extraction to treatment.  

Esker Therapeutics 

Focused on precision therapies for autoimmune diseases, this Foresite-labs incubated company launched last week with a $70 million Series A. The company’s precision analytics platform is made up of high-quality curated genetic, clinical and medical record data, a systems immunology approach for prospective data collections and tools for building patient registries. Its lead product ESK-001, a highly selective TYK2 inhibitor with greater selectivity for TYK2 over JAK1, is currently in a Phase I trial for psoriasis. 

Alebund Pharmaceuticals 

Renal disease-focused Alebund scooped up $60 million in a Series B round this week. The fresh funds will be harnessed to further drive the company’s focus on renal disease, a health condition with a fairly high prevalence in China. The raised funding represents a record for financing raised during a single round by any other Chinese nephrology-related biopharmaceutical company. Current pipeline candidates target renal chronic kidney disease (CKD)/dialysis complications, IgA nephropathy, diabetic kidney disease, and autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease.  

Appio Bio 

Jumping into the cell therapy fray this week is newcomer Appia Bio. Backed by a $52 million Series A, the company hopes to bring cell therapy to more people with more off-the-shelf treatments, which are typically far more affordable. Appia is developing engineered allogeneic cell therapies from hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) for cancer patients. Its ACUA platform utilizes the biology of lymphocyte development with CAR and TCR gene engineering to produce CAR-engineered invariant natural killer T (CAR-iNKT) cells from HSCs. 

Adaptive Phage Therapeutics

Every year 35,000 Americans die from antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.” Adaptive Phage Therapeutics is fighting back with bacteriophage therapies, and landed a $40.75 million Series B to fund the war. Deerfield Management took the lead on this round, joined by existing investor Mayo Clinic.  Funds from this round will be used to advance clinical-stage programs in prosthetic joint infection and diabetic foot osteomyelitis. Further development of the PhageBank Susceptibility Test, a tool to rapidly identify which phage therapy is needed for a specific condition, is also moving ahead.   

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