Money on the Move: September 29 – October 5
These life sciences companies scored enough capital this week for pumpkin spice and everything nice, and to propel their candidates in the clinic. Here's a look.
With an upsized IPO and additional concurrent placement, Oxford-based Exscientia raked in a whopping $510.4 million this week. Driven by AI, the pharmatech is committed to designing the best possible drugs in the fastest manner possible. Exscientia is the developer of the first-ever functional precision oncology platform, with currently over 25 projects in development. The lineup includes the first three AI-designed drug candidates to enter Phase I trials, including an A2a receptor antagonist for advanced solid tumors.
MoonLake is jetting to the Nasdaq via a merger with Helix Acquisition Corp., a SPAC sponsored by Cormorant Asset Management. Focused on inflammatory skin and joint disease, the newly combined company, MoonLake Immunotherapeutics, will have a valuation around $620 million. The $230 million in new funds acquired in the transaction will be used to accelerate the development of sonelokimab for multiple inflammatory indications in dermatology and rheumatology. Sonelokimab “numerically outperformed” Novartis’ Cosentyx in a Phase IIb trial of patients with moderate-to-severe psoriasis.
Originally from China and now headquartered in the Cayman Islands, CBMG is flexing a fresh $120 million Series A to accelerate its immune-oncology platform. Lead candidate C-Car039 is an anti-CD19/CD20 biospecific CAR-T therapy used for patients diagnosed with relapsed or refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma (r/r NHL), while C-CAR088 is a B cell maturation antigen (BCMA) therapy for those with late-stage relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma. Additional funds will go toward armored CAR-T therapies and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) therapies that target solid tumors and the development of its stem cell platform, among other initiatives.
A company that runs end-to-end clinical trials, TrialSpark snagged $56 million in its Series C round last week. Aiming to bring new therapies to patients faster and more economically, the tech-driven company will use the new funds to acquire and/or partner on clinical stage pharma assets and invest in biotech firms with promising candidates ready for development. "A lot of people complain about the mournful cost of bringing a new drug to market, but TrialSpark is actually doing something about it. Clinical trials are needlessly complex and expensive, and this directly contributes to the cost of drugs and keeps many promising drugs from ever coming to market. TrialSpark can fix this," said Sam Altman, chief executive officer of OpenAI, in a statement.
Developing oral therapies for severe RNA-mediated diseases, Expansion Therapeutics scooped up $80 million in a Series B round last week. Funds from this round will go into SMiRNA, its small molecule RNA platform, to find clinical candidates in myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1), frontotemporal dementia (FTD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and several other tauopathies. The platform will be utilized to design lead-like chemical matter to create an oral medication to treat neurological diseases. As part of its growth plans, Expansion recently in-licensed two research initiatives from Scripps Research, which includes a program that targets tau — a key driver of dementia disorders.
A short ten months after its $25 million Series A round, Exo is pumping in $78 million more in investment funds via an oversubscribed Series B. Launched from the lab of David Liu, the company’s drug candidates bind to the exosites of enzymes to reprogram them for precise and robust therapeutic effect without the toxic side effects. Its lead programs are currently three targeting oncology and one inflammation, keeping the details under wraps.
Germany-based iOmx scored close to $75 million in its latest Series B round to advance its lead program into its first-in-human clinical trial. IMT-07 is a SIK3 kinase inhibitor to treat solid tumors. Also in the pipeline is a first-in-class IGSF11-targeting antibody to treat PD-1/PD-L1-resistant tumors. IMT-07 is expected in the clinic by late 2022.
Keeping mum on the details, Virica has raised a “multimillion-dollar” investment to scale up its tech to “supercharge” production of a key component for gene therapies. Demand for these new therapies is outpacing production capabilities. Virica scales viral medicines by optimizing manufacturing, reducing production inefficiencies caused by innate anti-viral defenses in manufacturing cells.