Chi­nese in­vestors wa­ger $105M on an IPO-bound biotech look­ing to push RNAi as main­stream can­cer ther­a­py

Short­ly af­ter Sir­naomics brought in a $47 mil­lion Se­ries C for its small in­ter­fer­ing RNA pipeline last year, Patrick Lu — the founder, pres­i­dent and CEO — was asked to out­line the sci­en­tif­ic ad­vances that will be nec­es­sary to make bet­ter drugs out of RNA tech.

Patrick Lu

“The next step in the evo­lu­tion of RNAi as a lead­ing ther­a­peu­tic will be the abil­i­ty to safe­ly tar­get or­gans out­side the liv­er such as lung, brain, etc,” he had of­fered. “This will rev­o­lu­tion­ize dis­ease treat­ments if the in­dus­try can demon­strate sim­i­lar da­ta sets for non-liv­er tar­gets as we have seen in liv­er-based dis­eases.”

Then in April, the trans-Pa­cif­ic biotech did just that. In a Phase II open-la­bel dose es­ca­la­tion study, Sir­naomics re­port­ed in­ter­im re­sults sug­gest­ing that its lead drug, STP705, helped cer­tain can­cer pa­tients clear their squa­mous cell car­ci­no­ma.

In­vestors now say it’s time for a Se­ries D, pump­ing $105 mil­lion in­to the STP705 pro­gram as well as an­oth­er lead drug named STP707. The clin­i­cal fo­cus, Sir­naomics added, will be eval­u­at­ing these dual-tar­get­ed siR­NA in­hibitors, which hit TGF-β1 and COX-2 ei­ther lo­cal­ly or sys­tem­i­cal­ly, to­geth­er with check­point in­hibitors. But with al­most 10 oth­er pro­grams in the pipeline, the com­pa­ny re­mains on track to ex­plore not just RNAi’s ap­pli­ca­tion in can­cer but al­so in fi­bro­sis dis­eases, meta­bol­ic dis­eases and vi­ral in­fec­tions.

Ro­tat­ing Boul­der Fund, an ex­ist­ing in­vestor, led the round along­side new back­ers Wal­vax Biotech­nol­o­gy and Sun­shine River­head Cap­i­tal. Oth­ers on the syn­di­cate in­clude San­gel Cap­i­tal, Long­men Cap­i­tal, Hong­Tao Cap­i­tal and Al­pha Win Cap­i­tal.

In ad­di­tion to a po­ten­tial col­lab­o­ra­tion with Wal­vax on tech­ni­cal trans­fer and com­mer­cial­iza­tion, Lu is open about prepar­ing for an IPO “in near fu­ture.”

“The com­pa­ny is the on­ly bio­phar­ma ven­ture con­duct­ing in­no­v­a­tive R&D and clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment in the field of RNAi ther­a­peu­tics in both the US and Chi­na, the two largest mar­kets for can­cer and fi­bro­sis dis­ease treat­ments,” Don­ald (Xi­aochang) Dai, man­ag­ing part­ner of Ro­tat­ing Boul­der Fund, not­ed in a state­ment.

With of­fices in Gaithers­burg, MD and Suzhou BioBay just west of Shang­hai, Sir­naomics rec­og­nizes that it is trav­el­ing down a path blazed by the likes of Al­ny­lam and Ar­row­head. But it boasts of a plat­form com­pris­ing a new polypep­tide nanopar­ti­cle de­liv­ery sys­tem and a way to hit two tar­gets at once — promis­ing to push RNAi be­yond rare dis­eases or even car­dio­vas­cu­lar con­di­tions.

“At Sir­naomics specif­i­cal­ly, we are forg­ing a path to bring RNAi ther­a­peu­tics to the main­stream as ther­a­peu­tic modal­i­ties for treat­ment of many dis­eases, such as non-melanoma skin can­cer, liv­er can­cer, liv­er fi­bro­sis and NASH,” Lu said in his 2019 in­ter­view.

Im­ple­ment­ing re­silience in the clin­i­cal tri­al sup­ply chain

Since January 2020, the clinical trials ecosystem has quickly evolved to manage roadblocks impeding clinical trial integrity, and patient care and safety amid a global pandemic. Closed borders, reduced air traffic and delayed or canceled flights disrupted global distribution, revealing how flexible logistics and supply chains can secure the timely delivery of clinical drug products and therapies to sites and patients.

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Two weeks after snapping up the antibody-drug conjugate biotech VelosBio for $2.75 billion, Merck announced today that it had purchased OncoImmune and its experimental Covid-19 drug for $425 million. The drug, known as CD24Fc, appeared to reduce the risk of respiratory failure or death in severe Covid-19 patients by 50% in a 203-person Phase III trial, OncoImmune said in September.

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UP­DAT­ED: As­traZeneca, Ox­ford on the de­fen­sive as skep­tics dis­miss 70% av­er­age ef­fi­ca­cy for Covid-19 vac­cine

On the third straight Monday that the world wakes up to positive vaccine news, AstraZeneca and Oxford are declaring a new Phase III milestone in the fight against the pandemic. Not everyone is convinced they will play a big part, though.

With an average efficacy of 70%, the headline number struck analysts as less impressive than the 95% and 94.5% protection that Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have boasted in the past two weeks, respectively. But the British partners say they have several other bright spots going for their candidate. One of the two dosing regimens tested in Phase III showed a better profile, bringing efficacy up to 90%; the adenovirus vector-based vaccine requires minimal refrigeration, which may mean easier distribution; and AstraZeneca has pledged to sell it at a fraction of the price that the other two vaccine developers are charging.

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Bob Nelsen rais­es $800M and re­cruits a star-stud­ded board to build the 'Fox­con­n' of biotech

Bob Nelsen spent his pandemic spring in his Seattle home, talking on the phone with Luciana Borio, the scientist who used to run pandemic preparedness on the National Security Council, and fuming with her about the dire state of American manufacturing.

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Tech bil­lion­aire Pe­ter Thiel backs a lead­ing psy­che­del­ic drug de­vel­op­er

Right on the heels of investing in antibody drug developer AbCellera, Facebook billionaire Peter Thiel has jumped into a syndicate putting up $125 million for a company with a portfolio of psychedelic drugs in the clinic for mental health.

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Plot thick­ens around Leg­end Biotech, Gen­Script with founder Frank Zhang's ar­rest

Two months after Legend Biotech made the startling disclosure that founder and then-CEO Frank Zhang was placed under “residential surveillance,” its parent company revealed that he’s been formally arrested.

Zhang — who, since founding GenScript 18 years ago, has taken the CRO public and groomed Legend Biotech in-house until the J&J-partnered CAR-T player was mature enough for its own Nasdaq listing — is severing his final ties with both. He is resigning as board chair/non-executive director of GenScript and director of Legend.

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Back in the summer of 2019, Carl Hansen left his post as a professor at the University of British Columbia to go full time as the CEO at a low-profile antibody shop he had founded called AbCellera.

As biotech CEOs go, even after a fundraise Hansen wasn’t paid a whole heck of a lot. He ended up earning right at $250,000 for the year. His compensation package included a loan — which he later paid back — and a pair of Air Jordan tennis shoes. His newly-hired CFO, Andrew Booth, got a sweeter pay packet than that — which included his own pair of Air Jordans.

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Vipin Suri, Catamaran Bio CSO

Cata­ma­ran Bio sails in­to the CAR-NK wa­ters with a $42M launch round

Catamaran Bio’s founding members decided to jump into the CAR-NK game last December over drinks at a trendy bar in Boston.

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