NextGen Class of 2024: Top Life Sciences Startups to Watch This Year

Map of NextGen Class of 2024

Pictured: Map of NextGen Class of 2024/BioSpace

BioSpace is proud to present its NextGen Bio Class of 2024, a list of the hottest new life sciences companies in the United States. 

To come up with this list, BioSpace identified companies that launched between September 2022 and September 2023 with Series A funding. They were then assessed using several different criteria including finance, partnerships, pipeline, growth potential and innovation. After awarding points for each category, the BioSpace editorial team ranked its top 30. 

The impressive group of startups that make up BioSpace’s NextGen Class of 2024 is already making an impact on the industry. We will continue to keep a close eye on these companies as we move into the new year.


1. Rapport Therapeutics

rapportLaunched: March 2023

Location: Boston, MA, and San Diego, CA

Series A: $100M

Series B: $150M

Notable: Good rapport won this startup top billing on our list. The product of a partnership between Third Rock Ventures and Janssen Neuroscience, Rapport’s first program focuses on targeting drug-resistant seizure disorders and is in Phase I development.

Differentiator: Specificity is what sets Rapport apart, according to CEO Abe Ceesay, who spoke with BioSpace in March 2023. Current therapies for neurological disorders are nonspecific in nature, Ceesay said, while Rapport’s technology, which uses receptor-associated proteins (RAPs), has the potential to deliver highly specific therapies that are both more effective and better tolerated. The approach allows “unprecedented precision” in targeting receptors in the specific neuroanatomical regions underlying neurological disorders, according to the Series A announcement.

One More Thing: Not six months after announcing a $100 million Series A, Rapport came back with $150 million in Series B financing.


2. Apogee Therapeutics

apogee

Launched: December 2022

Location: Waltham, MA

Series A: $20M

Series B: $149M

Notable: In August 2023, Apogee dosed the first participants in a Phase I trial of lead candidate APG777, which is being developed to treat atopic dermatitis and other inflammatory diseases. APG777 is also in preclinical development for asthma.

Differentiator: Apogee is building antibodies from scratch, CEO Michael Henderson told BioSpace at the time of the company's Series B announcement in December 2022. “We are going to build brand new, novel antibodies that will provide a meaningful step change to what these patients currently have,” he said.

One More Thing: Apogee, the first spinout from Paragon Therapeutics, was one of just a few biotechs to file for an initial public offering (IPO) in 2023.


3. CARGO Therapeuticscargo

Launched: March 2023

Location: San Mateo, CA

Series A: $200M

Notable: CARGO is another member of the select 2023 IPO club. The quickly moving startup announced its own filing in November 2023, seeking more than $315 million. The company plans to use around $220 million of the proceeds from the IPO to fund Phase II trials of its lead candidate CRG-022, an autologous CD22 CAR T cell therapy designed for patients whose large B-cell lymphoma (LBCL) is relapsed or refractory to CD19 CAR T cell therapies.

Differentiator: CARGO already has data in hand from a Phase I trial showing that treatment with CRG-022 led to durable complete responses in greater than 50% of LBCL patients in this population.

One More Thing: CRG-022 has been granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation by the FDA.


4. Aera Therapeutics aera

Launched: February 2023

Location: Cambridge, MA

Series A & B: $193M

Notable: Aera launched into the sizzling hot field of gene therapy delivery with foundational technology from the lab of world-renowned scientist Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the University of Utah’s Jason Shepherd.

Differentiator: Pedigree. Aera was founded by Zhang and ARCH Venture Partners. Zhang is joined by former Alnylam Oncology Head Akin Akinc, who serves as CEO, and John Maraganore, the founding CEO of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, who serves as Aera’s board chair.

One More Thing: Aera will “explore a variety of genetic medicine modalities” and “prioritize applications based on patient impact,” Akinc told BioSpace in an email at the time of the Series A and B announcement.


5. Nido Biosciencesnido

Launched: May 2023

Location: Watertown, MA

Series A, B & Seed: $109M

Notable: Nido was founded through the 4:59 Initiative at 5AM Ventures. The company’s first clinical-stage candidate, NIDO-361, is in Phase I trials for Spinal and Bulbar Muscular Atrophy (SBMA)—also known as Kennedy’s disease—a rare, inherited neuromuscular disorder affecting men that results in a loss of skeletal muscle and motor neuron function. The disorder is caused by a genetic mutation of the androgen receptor.

Differentiator: In addition to NIDO-361, Nido is leveraging a functional genomics discovery platform based on human cell lines that uses tailored screens to identify novel therapeutic targets for myriad neuromuscular and neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal disorders (FTD).

One More Thing: Eli Lilly, which has a deep emphasis on neuroscience, participated in Nido’s Series A funding round.


6. ReNAgade Therapeuticsrenagade

Launched: May 2023

Location: Cambridge, MA

Series A: $300M

Notable: The past three years have made clear the potential of RNA, but the aptly named ReNAgade Therapeutics wants to push the envelope and deliver RNA medicines to previously inaccessible tissues and cells.

Differentiator: Experience. ReNAgade CEO Amit Munshi was most recently the head of Arena Pharmaceuticals, which under his stewardship grew from a $300 million company into a late clinical-stage firm with nearly 40 programs before being acquired by Pfizer for $6.7 billion. Munshi is joined by CSO Peter Smith, whose resume includes leadership roles at Alnylam and Moderna.

One More Thing: Not only did ReNAgade launch with a cool $300 million, but it had also already established a joint venture with circular RNA startup Orna Therapeutics—BioSpace Class of ’22—to combine their respective platforms. A subsequent Orna-Merck collaboration is leveraging tech developed under this joint venture.


7. Orbital Therapeuticsorbital

Launched: April 2023

Location: Cambridge, MA

Series A: $270M

Notable: Orbiting in the red-hot RNA space, this startup is a spinout of Beam Therapeutics and counts John Maraganore, the founding CEO of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, as a co-founder. Maraganore is chairman of Orbital’s board of directors.

Differentiator: Orbital is building what it calls a first-in-kind platform that combines existing and novel RNA technologies and delivery mechanisms. And it would seem the company has the cash and experience to do it.

One More Thing: Co-founder and CEO Giuseppe Ciaramella is a busy man, also serving as president of Beam. Ciaramella was previously CSO of the infectious diseases division at Moderna.


8. Abdera Therapeuticsabdera

Launched: April 2023

Location: Menlo Park, CA, and Vancouver, BC

Series A & B: $142M

Notable: The radiopharmaceuticals space quietly picked up speed in 2023, with Eli Lilly’s $1.4 billion acquisition of Point Biopharma, RayzeBio’s $311 million IPO and Abdera Therapeutics’ $142 million in combined Series A and B funds

Differentiator: Balance. Abdera’s website notes that radiopharmaceuticals using small ligands often fail to reach therapeutic levels inside tumors and can cause toxicities, while antibodies can limit tumor penetration and lead to systemic exposure. Abdera’s proprietary ROVEr platform allows it to strike an optimal balance between the two approaches, the company claims, with antibody-based medicines that bear a high-affinity antigen-binding domain to seek out and specifically target cancer cells.

One More Thing: Abdera’s lead asset, ABD-14, is a delta-like ligand 3-targeting molecule going after small cell lung cancer.


9. SonoTherasonothera

Launched: December 2022

Location: South San Francisco, CA

Series A: $60.75M

Notable: Eli Lilly and J&J are among the investors that believe in the potential of SonoThera’s ultrasound-guided nonviral gene delivery platform, as the two companies kicked in funds for the startup’s Series A.

Differentiator: Microbubbles. Whereas traditional approaches use viral vectors to deliver a therapeutic gene, SonoThera houses its payload in a microbubble, which is then injected into the bloodstream. The microbubble is guided to the target site using an FDA-cleared ultrasound device and a proprietary acoustic profile. This approach could allow the company to avoid the immunogenicity and high costs associated with viral vectors.

One More Thing: As of February, SonoThera had two new microbubble products to use in the development of its platform after inking an exclusive license for GE HealthCare’s Optison and Sonazoid.


10. Bitterroot Biobitterroot

Launched: June 2023

Location: Palo Alto, CA

Series A: $145M

Notable: The cardiovascular space experienced a resurgence in 2023, including the $145 million in Series A funds dropped into the coffers of Bitterroot Bio, a startup focused on the subspecialty of cardio-immunology.

Differentiator: Bitterroot’s first program targets the CD47/SIRPα pathway. While the anti-CD47 approach to cardiovascular pathology has yet to be tested in humans, blocking CD47 restored the function of macrophages in mice and facilitated the clearance of plaques and reversal of atherosclerosis, according to a 2016 study published in Nature.

One More Thing: Co-founder Irving Weissman is credited with the discovery of how tumors use the CD47 protein to evade the immune system.


11. Belharra Therapeuticsbelharra

Launched: January 2023

Location: San Mateo and San Diego, CA

Series A: $130M

Notable: Backed by Versant Ventures and Roche’s Genentech, Belharra Therapeutics launched with a nine-figure funding round and a drive to advance its chemoproteomics platform.

Differentiator: Belharra’s chemoproteomics platform does not require specific amino acid residues on a protein to find and label a proteome. When the company announced its launch, it said its platform could counter the challenges in chemoprotemoics.

One More Thing: So far, the company plans to set its discovery sights in the oncology and immunology spaces, but it has also netted partnerships with Genentech and Scripps Research.


12. Kate Therapeuticskate tx

Launched: June 2023

Location: San Diego, CA

Series A: $51M

Notable: Kate Therapeutics is a biotech looking to develop AAV-based treatments for complex heart and muscle conditions.

Differentiator: Kate Therapeutics separates itself from the pack with its DELIVER platform, which uses directed evolution, RNA-based selection of capsid variants and machine learning to learn and analyze in vivo models. Kate has produced a class of capsids called MyoAAV, developed by Sharif Tabebrodbar, Kate’s CSO and co-founder.

One More Thing: Kate hit the ground running in partnerships with bigger pharma companies. Astellas inked an exclusive license to develop, produce and commercialize one of Kate’s candidates, KT430, designed to treat X-linked myotubular myopathy.


13. Convergent Therapeuticsconvergent

Launched: May 2023

Location: Cambridge, MA

Series A: $90M 

Notable: The startup is seeking to develop radiopharmaceutical-based therapies to treat cancers, including prostate cancer. 

Differentiator: Convergent claims that its lead candidate in targeting prostate cancer, CONV01-α, is different from other radioactive medicines. Using the radionuclide 225Ac, the alpha particles can deliver radiation over short distances and reduce exposure to healthier tissues and cells nearby, according to the company. In a Phase I trial of the candidate, 44% of patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer experienced a decline of prostate-specific antigen levels by more than 50% after a single dose. 

One More Thing: The company attracted big-name funders such as RA Capital Management and OrbiMed. 


14. Cajal Neurosciencecajal

Launched: November 2022

Location: Seattle, WA

Series A: $96M

Notable: Backed by Bristol Myers Squibb, Lux Capital and The Column Group, Cajal Neurosciences plans to combine human genetics and multi-omics, whole brain imaging and functional genomics to find potential drug targets.

Differentiator: A spokesperson at Cajal told BioSpace in late 2022 when the company launched that the discovery outfit uses computational genetic techniques to “identify the precise mechanism by which genetic variation mediates disease.” The company plans to build a discovery platform that allows researchers to see what is happening in a degenerating brain, leading to potential target points. 

One More Thing: Cajal is named after and inspired by Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal, who helped map cellular content and connectivity in the brain.


15. Matchpoint Therapeuticsmatchpoint

Launched: October 2022

Location: Cambridge, MA

Series A: $100M

Notable: Matchpoint Therapeutics came on the scene with backing from Sanofi and Vertex and is focused on developing precision small-molecule medicines.

Differentiator: Its Advanced Covalent Exploration platform uses several tools such as chemoproteomics to identify new covalent binders to disease-causing proteins as well as machine learning to find targets and build out its library of covalent compounds.

One More Thing: Matchpoint’s financing is enough to see the company through 2025.


16. Bonum Therapeuticsbonum

Launched: November 2022

Location: Seattle, WA

Series A: $93M

Notable: After Roche acquired Good Therapeutics, the latter’s leadership team formed Bonum Therapeutics, which is developing a new class of “context-dependent therapeutics” that are only active when bound to a target molecule.

Differentiator: Bonum focuses on the regulation of cytokines such as IL-12, IFN-alpha and TGF-beta, with an immune-oncology focus, but the company’s technology can also have applications in other sectors. The therapeutics themselves have antibody-binding domains that can act as sensors. When bound to a target, the molecules become active.  

One More Thing: Founder John Mulligan told BioSpace in 2022 that when the deal with Roche closed, the assets that were not transferred over were folded into the new company. The company is “the same as Good Therapeutics minus one program.”


17. Juvena TherapeuticsJuvena Therapeutics

Launched: November 2022

Location: Redwood City, CA

Series A: $41M

Notable: Launched with backing from Mubadala Capital and Horizons Ventures, Juvena Therapeutics aims to target chronic and age-related diseases.

Differentiator: Juvena uses artificial intelligence to look for proteins secreted by regenerative stem cells. It plans to use the identified proteins as drug agents and develop biologics that can target their pathways as well.

One More Thing: Juvena is still in the very early stages but already has several candidates in its pipeline for diseases such as myotonic dystrophy, sarcopenic obesity and obesity.


18. Georgiamunegeorgiamune

Launched: August 2023

Location: Gaithersburg, MD

Series A: $75M

Notable: Backed by several investment firms, including Mubadala Capital, Alexandra Venture Investments and Catalio Capital, among others, Georgiamune already has already picked up FDA clearance for an IND for one of its candidates, a dual-function monoclonal antibody called GIM-122 to fight cancer.

Differentiator: Georgiamune’s approach centers on reprogramming immune signaling pathways to find ways to redirect the immune system to counter disease. Its strategy is to activate or down-modulate the immune system to fight cancer or autoimmune diseases.

One More Thing: The company has four additional cancer candidates besides GIM-122 and two in unspecified autoimmune diseases.


19. Nested Therapeuticsnested 

Launched: October 2022

Location: Cambridge, MA

Series A: $90M

Notable: Nested is focused on discovering and developing precision therapies to treat cancer and has received backing from prominent financial names such as Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Cowan Healthcare Investments.

Differentiator: Nested’s platform can map mutational clusters onto the structural proteome, find “druggable pockets,” and design new drugs for those pockets, according to the company.  

One More Thing: Nested is already producing assets, with its lead compound known as NEST-1, a non-degrading dual molecular glue targeting the MAPK pathway.


20. Crossbow Therapeuticscrossbow

Launched: July 2023

Location: Cambridge, MA

Series A: $80M

Notable: Eli Lilly and Pfizer Ventures have served as some of the investors in Crossbow’s Series A round. The company claims that its cancer therapies have the power and precision of a crossbow.

Differentiator: Crossbow says that its development process starts with finding a target and then uses TCR-mimetic antibodies to make an off-the-shelf T-cell engager and other immunotherapies. According to the company, its T-Bolt molecules can be adopted across a broad range of cancers.

One More Thing: Apart from big names attached to the raise, the company was founded, seeded and incubated at MPM BioImpact.


21. Ascidian Therapeutics

Launched: October 2022ascidian

Located: Boston, MA

Series A: $50M

Notable: When explaining the problem Ascidian aims to fix, then CEO Romesh Subramanian described an editor’s worst nightmare. Imagine opening a book that has been published and finding spelling and grammatical errors throughout, Subramanian said in an interview with BioSpace at the time of the Series A financing. Instead of correcting each mistake manually, he said, it would be more efficient to precisely fix whole chapters of the book. “That’s what we can do with disease. What we essentially do is use RNA to splice in and replace mutated exons with wild-type exons. If there are multiple mutations, we can drop in a large set of exons and correct it.”

Differentiator: Unlike gene therapies that target DNA, Ascidian’s approach makes these exon swaps in the RNA transcripts that encode proteins. Its lead program targets ABCA4 retinopathy, including Stargardt disease.

One More Thing: Ascidian takes its name from the sea squirt. To grow from larvae to adults, ascidians re-engineer their transcriptome through RNA trans-splicing and alternative splicing.


22. Delve Bio delve

Launched: June 2023

Located: San Francisco, CA

Series A: $35M

Notable: Delve was spun out of the University of California, San Francisco.

Differentiator: Delve wants to bring the genomics revolution to infectious disease. The company’s test, Delve Neuro, samples all of the metagenomic content—RNA and DNA—within a patient’s sample to simultaneously detect bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.

One More Thing: Delve’s Series A financing was led by Perceptive Xontogeny Venture Fund II, which was joined in the round by Section 32 and GV.


23. Alterome Therapeuticsalterome

Launched: November 2022

Located: San Diego, CA

Series A (extended): $99M+

Notable: This San Diego–based startup is going after particularly evasive cancer targets in the “alterome,” which is made up of all the disease-driving alterations in genes.

Differentiator: Alterome’s computational chemistry platform, The Kraken, offers precise, atomic-level insights into molecular interactions, enabling ligand activity and binding mode predictions, according to the company’s website.

One More Thing: Scientific Advisory Board member Paul Workman is a precision cancer treatment pioneer, having developed the concept of the Pharmacological Audit Trail for biomarker-led drug discovery and development.


24. LinusBiolinus

Launched: January 2023

Located: New York

Series A & A2: $24M

Notable: LinusBio is going after some pretty lofty targets with its exposome sequencing platform, including autism and ALS.

Differentiator: LinusBio’s platform introduces precision exposome biomarkers to identify a person’s various environmental exposures and potentially help diagnose diseases and monitor progression and serve as objective endpoints in clinical trials.

One More Thing: An early diagnostic candidate, StrandDx™-ASD, can assess the likelihood of autism at birth with 80% to 90% accuracy and help inform personalized treatment decisions, according to the Series A announcement.


25. Actio Biosciencesactio

Launched: September 2023

Location: San Diego, CA

Series A: $55M

Notable: Genetics and precision medicine are a common refrain among the companies on this year’s list, but Actio is launching its development efforts with rare diseases, including Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 2C.

Differentiator: With its proprietary tech and deep genetics expertise, Actio is developing novel therapies that target shared underlying biology in both rare and common diseases.

One More Thing: “Defining a high-impact drug target for a common disease with a heterogenous population has a very low probability of success and has long been a major challenge for drug discovery,” Actio co-founder and CEO David Goldstein said in a statement at the time of the Series A announcement. By starting with rare diseases, the company hopes to both help patients in these indications and de-risk and guide therapeutic expansion to more common conditions, Goldstein said.


26. i2o Therapeutics

i2O Therapeutics

Launched: August 2023

Located: Cambridge, MA

Series A: $46M

Notable: i2o’s therapeutic focus couldn’t be hotter: The startup is researching a GLP-1 asset for type 2 diabetes in preclinical studies. This drug candidate, and several others, came with i2o’s acquisition of Intarcia Therapeutics.

Differentiator: i2o’s proprietary ionic liquids platform seeks to overcome two barriers to oral administration of biologics and peptides by protecting them from the harsh conditions in the gastrointestinal tract and assisting large molecules in crossing the epithelial lining.

One More Thing: i2o attracted the early attention of Sanofi Ventures, which took part in the company’s $4 million seed round. Both Sanofi and J&J are development partners.


27. Initial TherapeuticsInitial TX Logo

Launched: May 2023

Located: South San Francisco, CA

Series A: $75M

Notable: Initial Therapeutics is another startup that bills itself on attempting to drug undruggable targets, in this case using selective termination of protein synthesis, or STOPS, to discover therapeutics.

Differentiator: Initial’s STOPS platform comprises a “bespoke suite” of technologies and capabilities, according to the company’s website. This allows the team to discover small molecules to intercept the translation of target proteins, Initial states in its Series A announcement, adding that its strategy “circumvents the need to accommodate the cellular activity of the fully formed protein or to structurally solve for docking.”

One More Thing: Initial was launched by the life sciences venture capital firm Apple Tree Partners.


28. Entact Bio

Entact Bio

Launched: December 2022

Located: Watertown, MA

Series A: $81M

Notable: Entact Bio isn’t targeting disease-causing proteins for destruction; it’s trying to protect and enhance the function of beneficial proteins that help the body fight disease.

Differentiator: Entact’s Encompass platform uses deubiquitinases, or DUBs—enzymes that regulate proteins in cells. Enhancement-targeting chimeric (ENTAC) molecules pair beneficial target proteins with DUBs, which then shorten or remove chains of ubiquitin attached to the target protein, enhancing its function and restoring the cell to health.

One More Thing: CEO Victoria Richon was formerly founding president and CEO of Ribon Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biotech targeting stress support pathways in cancer and inflammation.


29. Rezo Therapeuticsrezo

Launched: November 2022

Located: San Francisco, CA

Series A: $78M

Notable: In Rezo’s Series A announcement, co-founder and President Nevan Krogan called the human body a “complicated mosaic of cell and molecular interactions” and said the field has been relying on a “two-dimensional” view to solve disease.

Differentiator: So, the company’s Sequence to Systems to Drugs (SSD) platform integrates data from proteomics, genetics, structural biology and chemical biology approaches. Together, these methods enable the rapid identification and study of disease-causing protein and genetic interactions, according to the announcement.

One More Thing: Co-founder and UCSF professor Kevan Shokat developed a successful approach to drugging a protein produced by the mutated KRAS gene, an achievement for which he was honored with two prestigious awards in 2023.


30. Aether BioAetherBio

Launched: August 2023

Located: Menlo Park, CA

Series A: $49M

Notable: One of the more unique companies on this list, Aether Bio is using generative AI and automation to find novel biocatalysts. With its molecular assembler platform, Aether intends to create enhanced products across the healthcare, home electronics and automotive industries.

Differentiator: Aether’s platform combines several buzzy modalities: high-throughput robotics, machine learning and synthetic biology, with the intention of mapping millions of enzyme-reaction combinations.

One More Thing: Aether’s Series A round was led by Jay Zaveri at Natural Capital and Trevor Zimmerman at Unless, an impact investment and VC firm “catalyzing the new industrial revolution.”

Correction (Jan. 3): This story has been updated to correctly state that Alterome is based in San Diego not the Bay Area. BioSpace regrets the error.

Correction (Jan 3): This story has been updated to correctly name Convergent Therapeutics' lead asset as CONV01-α. BioSpace regrets the error. 

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