In this market, for a biotech that isn’t directly engaged in gene editing, that’s cause for celebration, though Selecta execs may choose from the less expensive brands of Champagne for the going-public party.
MIT investigator Robert Langer, Omid Farokhzad and Ulrich von Andrian of the Harvard Medical School provided the scientific firepower required to launch Watertown, MA-based Selecta, which has been steadily advancing a new synthetic nanoparticle technology to block an unwanted immune system attack, thwarting an anti-drug antibody response that can be kicked up by a variety of biologics.
The biotech’s executive crew, led by CEO Werner Cautreels, has been pushing a lead program for gout — aimed at controlling uric acid — into Phase II, taking an existing drug and reformulating it to eliminate a trigger for the immune system. Further down the road, the company also sees potential in using the same building blocks to guide an immune attack.
There’s a gene therapy aspect to this as well. The backbone of the gene therapy trend is built around benign AAV vectors used to deliver the corrective gene. But patients who have been exposed to an AAV infection — potentially a large percentage of patients — aren’t eligible due to the immune response a repeat vector would kick off. Also, there’s an increasing possibility that these gene therapies will need to be delivered more than once, which would also raise the threat of an unwanted immune system reaction.
The tech has gained the attention of Sanofi, which partnered up with Selecta in 2012 on celiac disease and then doubled down on the pact last year. VCs provided the bulk of the $121 million Selecta has burned through to date.
Langer, a star scientist at MIT, still owns a small stake in the company, as does Farokhzad. Polaris, Flagship and Rusnano controlled 38% of the company’s stock at the time Selecta filed its S-1.
UBS Investment Bank and Stifel are acting as joint book-running managers while Canaccord Genuity and Needham & Company are acting as co-managers for the offering.
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