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.
“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.