Nanotechnology Company Exicure Raises Over $42 Million from Bill Gates, AbbVie, Agilent and Others

Nanotechnology Company Exicure Raises Over $42 Million From Bill Gates, AbbVie, Agilent and Others
February 26, 2016
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Skokie, Ill.-based Exicure, formerly AuraSense Therapeutics, has been flying under the radar, but that may change. On Feb. 4, the company announced a second closing of its Series C financing, which at that point had brought in more than $27 million in capital. Through six founds of investments the company has brought in $40.75 million in equity funding.

The company has gotten the attention of some heavy-hitter investors, including Microsoft mogul Bill Gates, Pat Ryan, the founder of Aon, David Walt, co-founder of Illumina , and Boon Hwee Koh, director of Agilent Technologies .

Exicure is developing three-dimensional, spherical nucleic acid (SNA) architecture to develop a new class of immunomodulatory and gene silencing drugs. SNA was developed by Chad Mirkin at the Northwestern University International Institute for Nanotechnology. Exicure holds 51 pending patent applications and 26 allowed or issued patents.

Although the technology platform is quite complex, it essentially is various single and double-stranded nucleic acids stuck on the outside of a nanosphere. These are able to easily penetrate cells, which then trigger immune responses. The company has a short video on its website to help explain the technology.

Although the company has several products in various stages of preclinical development for inflammatory disorders and solid tumors, its lead product is AST-005 Targeting TNF for mild to moderate psoriasis. “We just filed a regulatory package in Germany for a first-in-human Phase I trial,” said David Giljohann, company chief executive officer, to FierceBiotech.

If the technology works, the company indicates there are another 230 potential dermatology targets.

Another investor, from the company’s Series B round in July 2013, is Chicago-based AbbVie, Inc. AbbVie markets the blockbuster drug Humira, which is used to treat plaque psoriasis, as well as other autoimmune and inflammatory diseases like arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Mirkin, the co-founder and director of Exicure, recently received the 2016 Dan David Prize in the Future Time Dimension. This rather science fiction-sounding award is given annual for outstanding contributions to humanity in three time dimensions, past, present and future. He is being given the award for his nanoscience work and will be presented at Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv, Israel on May 22, 2016.

“The Dan David Prize recognizing Chad Mirkin’s work is continued validation of the SNA technology’s great potential to fulfill the promise of nucleic acid therapeutics in organs beyond the liver,” said Giljohann, in an statement. “This is another high honor for Chad and for our SNA platform.”

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