New Launches Focus On Non-Coding RNAs and Chronic Kidney Disease


Two new biotech companies launched today: one to focus on non-coding RNA technology, and the other with a clinic-ready licensed compound and plans to enter Phase III trials. Here’s a look. 

NextRNA Out of the Gate with $56 Million in Funding 

NextRNA Therapeutics launched with $9.3 million in seed financing and a Series A round worth $46.8 million, for a total of $56 million. The Series A was led by Cobro Ventures and Lightchain Capital, with Circle Alternative Investments, Evans Capital, Jefferies, Rivas Capital and Willett Advisors participating. The company plans to use the funds to assist its target and drug discovery engine, expand its pipeline, and advance lead programs. 

NextRNA, based in Cambridge, Mass., focuses on developing non-coding RNAs into therapeutics. The majority of DNA that is copied into RNAs doesn’t make proteins. These are called “non-coding RNAs,” and they play roles in interacting with and modulating proteins, which can affect numerous disease processes, including oncology, immunology and neurology. 

“NextRNA is uniquely positioned to be the leader in non-coding RNA-directed medicines,” said Dominique Verhelle, co-founder, chief scientific officer and interim chief executive officer of NextRNA. “We have established a robust target and drug discovery engine to systematically identify disease-relevant long non-coding RNAs and their interacting proteins. By developing selective small molecules to drug these interactions, we plan to translate discoveries of non-coding RNA targets into a robust pipeline of transformative therapies across multiple disease areas.” 

The company was founded in January 2021 based on research by Dr. Carl Novina at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Its lead programs are in oncology and immunology. 

Co-founders include Verhelle; Marc Cohen, who is also executive chairman; Julia A. Novia, also chief legal officer; Leon Wert-Lamas, also scientist II; Dr. Novina; Dr. Kenneth Anderson, with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School; and Robert Langer, MIT. 

Pathalys Launches with Clinical-Stage Asset 

Pathalys Pharma, based in Research Triangle Park, NC, announced its launch made possible by initial seed financing from DaVita Venture Group, part of DaVita Inc., and Catalys Pacific. The company launches with a novel clinical-stage asset, upacicalcet. Upacicalcet was acquired via a license granted by EA Pharma for exclusive rights to develop and commercialize the drug around the world, except for Japan and Asia. No financial details were disclosed. 

Upacicalcet is an intravenous small molecule calcimimetic that controls intact parathyroid hormone (iPTH) levels in patients with secondary hyperparathyroidism (SHPT) who are on hemodialysis. The drug was approved in Japan in 2021 under the brand name Upasita. It was granted approval based on data from a Phase III, 24-week double-blind, placebo-controlled dose-titration study and a second Phase III, 52-week open-label, dose-titration study. The drug significantly decreased iPTH and maintained long-term iPTH suppression. It also resulted in fewer adverse events than other available therapies. 

Pathalys will run two identical Phase III trials in preparation for submission to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

“DaVita’s support of Pathalys Pharma underscores our commitment to bringing to market innovations that may help improve the health and quality of life of kidney care patients,” said Dr. Mahesh Krishnan, Pathalys director and group vice president of Research and Development at DaVita. “By combining the unique development strengths of Catalys Pacific with DaVita’s kidney care expertise, we believe Pathalys can be a platform for delivering a range of novel products and solutions that help improve patient lives.” 

As part of the launch, Pathalys announced Jay Shepard, co-founder of Pathalys and venture partner at Catalys Pacific, and Takeshi Takahashi, Pathalys co-founder and managing partner at Catalys Pacific, will join BT Slingsby and Mahesh Krishnan on the Pathalys board of directors. Also, Neal Fowler has been appointed CEO and board member of Pathalys. Fowler was formerly the CEO of Liquidia Corporation. 

“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead Pathalys, a company formed by industry leaders with a passion to improve the lives of patients living with CKD (chronic kidney disease),” Fowler said. “I am very optimistic about the future of our organization and our lead asset, upacicalcet, as well as the other opportunities that exist to expand our portfolio.” 

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