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Biopharma financing digest—June 2021

Euro banknotes rolled up in test tubes

Eliem Therapeutics Inc raised $60 million from new and old investors to develop novel therapies for chronic pain, psychiatry, epilepsy and other disorders of the peripheral and central nervous systems. Eliem, which is based in Seattle and Cambridge, UK, will use the proceeds, part of its $140 million total funding, to advance its two lead product candidates into phase 2a clinical trials: ETX-810, a palmitoylethanolamide prodrug for diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain and lumbosacral radicular pain, and ETX-155, a GABAA receptor positive allosteric modulator for major depressive disorder and hormone-related depressive disorders.

Nuvalent Inc, which is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, raised $135 million last month to develop precise targeting kinase inhibitors for treatment-resistant cancers. The high target selectivity of Nuvalent’s small molecules improves brain penetrance and activity against drug-resistance mutations, drives more durable responses, and minimizes adverse events. As well as expanding its discovery pipeline of small molecule kinase inhibitors, the funding will be used to advance its lead programs in ROS1-positive and ALK-positive NSCLC to phase 1/2 clinical trials.

Adaptive Phage Therapeutics also closed a $40.75 million round in May. Adaptive’s growing collection of hundreds of bacteriophages (bacteria-killing viruses) are used to treat multidrug-resistant bacterial infections. The funds will help the company to accelerate clinical development of phage therapies in prosthetic joint infection and diabetic foot osteomyelitis, and further develop a Susceptibility Test to rapidly identify phage therapies for specific bacterial infections.

Seattle-based TwinStrand Biosciences raised $50 million from new and existing investors to expand adoption of its Duplex Sequencing technology. This can identify exceptionally low-frequency genetic variants with a 10,000-fold greater sensitivity than other available/conventional tools to detect early, residual or recurrent cancer. It can also track immunotherapies and can be used in applications such as gene editing and gene therapy.

May also saw two notable gene therapy series A financings from two companies based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Vedere Bio II Inc raised $77 million to develop therapies for vision loss due to photoreceptor death. By using adeno-associated virus (AAV) capsids to deliver novel payloads intravitreally, the therapies confer light sensing properties to cells downstream of photoreceptors, which are preserved in most inherited retinal diseases and geographic atrophy. Consequently, while most current gene therapies target specific gene mutations and only slow vision loss, Vedere’s technology has the potential to restore or preserve vision loss regardless of disease stage and underlying genetic cause.

Dyno Therapeutics Inc, which applies artificial intelligence and quantitative high-throughput in vivo research data to gene therapy, raised $100 million. The funds will be used to expand the company’s CapsidMap platform, which rapidly discovers and systematically optimizes AAV capsid vectors, overcoming some of the limitations of AAVs and making gene therapies [developed by others] more effective, safer, more manufacturable and applicable to more diseases. Dyno plans to design improved vectors targeting liver, muscle, eye and central nervous system disease, as well as growing into new areas of lung, heart and kidney disease.

Finally, May also saw one of the largest private financings in precision medicine, with Caris Life Sciences, based in Irving, Texas raising $830 million in growth equity capital from new and existing investors. This brings its total raised since 2018 to $1.3 billion. The Caris Molecular Intelligence approach allows oncologists to assess all 22,000 genes in both DNA and RNA, utilizing whole exome sequencing, whole transcriptome sequencing, protein analysis, and proprietary artificial intelligence models and signatures, enabling more precise and personalized treatment decisions.

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d43747-021-00090-2

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