Financial conditions continue to make it difficult for biotech companies to raise funds. Despite a tough market, some startups are securing the cash they need to advance drug research in cancer, immunology, rare diseases and more. Here’s a roundup of some recent funding worth noting:
—Belharra Therapeutics has emerged from stealth with $50 million in Series A funding and a partnership with Genentech this comes with an $80 million down payment. The startup, an offshoot of Scripps Research, has technology that analyzes the human proteome to find ways small molecules can bind to disease-causing proteins long considered non-druggable. Belharra was founded by venture capital firm Versant Ventures.
—Pathalys Pharma raised $150 million to fund two phase 3 trials of upacicalet, a potential treatment for dialysis patients who develop secondary hyperparathyroidism. This condition leads to lower levels of calcium in the blood, which causes the thyroid gland to work harder. Treatment includes calcimimetics that reduce parathyroid hormone secretion. Upacicalet is an intravenously administered small molecule that can control intact parathyroid hormone levels. The new money for Raleigh, North Carolina-based Pathalys, a combination of product financing and equity investment, was led by Abingworth.
— Cystic Fibrosis Foundation committed up to $15 million to ReCode Therapeutics to support one of the biotechnology programs. Based in Menlo Park, California ReCode develops messenger RNA therapies delivered by lipid nanoparticles. The foundation’s investment will support the startup’s work to develop an inhaled mRNA therapy for cystic fibrosis. Last summer, Leaps by Bayer co-led a $120 million expansion of ReCode’s Series B funding round.
— Aethon Therapeutics started with $30 million Series A funding round. The New York-based startup develops bispecific antibody drugs designed to overcome the ability of tumors to develop drug resistance. Aethon’s technology, called HapImmune, is based on research from NYU Langone Health. Funding coincided with publication of an article in the journal Cancer Discovery describing the HapImmune platform. Most of Aethon’s funding comes from venture capital firm Apple Tree Partners, which co-founded Aethon with scientists from NYU Langone.
— Jumps from Bayer and Sanofi Ventures, jointly led NextPoint Therapeutics’ $80 million Series B round. The Cambridge, Mass.-based startup said it will use the capital to reach the clinic with its two leading immuno-oncology programs, both of which activate anti-tumor responses by targeting the newly discovered HHLA2 pathway.
— Speaking of Sanofi Ventures, the venture fund already has an additional $750 million. French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi has allocated this amount to its eponymous venture capital fund, which invests in innovative new companies. Last year, Sanofi Ventures closed 10 investments in therapeutic and digital areas of interest to Sanofi.
—Ensoma Therapeutics closed an $85 million in Series B funding to support its in vivo cell therapy platform, Engenious, and continue the development of its genetic drug pipeline. The Boston-based company also announced the acquisition of Twelve Bio ApS, a CRISPR gene editing company. Arix Bioscience and 5AM Ventures co-led the new funding. Ensoma launches in 2021, unveiling $70 million Series A round and partnership with Takeda Pharmaceutical.
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