Dyno's Eric Kelsic fills the tank in his quest for better AAV with a group of big-name supporters on board
Adeno-associated viruses (AAV) for gene therapy have received a ton of scrutiny throughout the field’s history after a smattering of safety scares and their limited therapeutic range. Hoping to crack the field wide open through a capsid design revolution, Eric Kelsic and his team at Dyno have drummed up immense excitement — and now a hefty war chest.
Dyno Therapeutics has bagged a $100 million Series A with backing from the likes of round leader Andreessen Horowitz and new investor Casdin Capital in its quest to use AI to design better AAV capsids for gene therapy, the company said Thursday.
As the gene therapy industry has run into a technological roadblock with a narrow range of AAVs used to deliver those drugs, Kelsic’s team is using deep learning to comb through millions of engineered capsid designs to find safer and easier-to-manufacture viral vectors for a range of tissues.
So far, that mission has earned the support of high-level running mates in Novartis, Roche/Genentech and Sarepta in deals worth more than $4 billion cumulatively — and now Dyno is ready to add even more partnerships to the fold. The newest round of funding will give Dyno the space to keep developing its capsid design platform as well as hire up its team and start taking on new partners as part of its business development plan moving ahead.
Kelsic, a CalTech grad and former George Church acolyte at Harvard, told Endpoints News his plan is to expand the team about three-fold from its current 50-employee roster but left the door open for even more expansion in that time frame. Meanwhile, the biotech looks to widen its platform to add three new target tissues to its growing fold — the lung, heart and kidney. Those join existing target areas in liver, eye, muscle and CNS.
As part of the financing, Andreessen Horowitz general partner Jorge Conde will join the board. In a blog post published in tandem with the news, Conde pointed to Dyno’s decision not to build a pipeline of its gene therapies and instead invest in partnerships as a big draw for his firm:
“From its inception, Dyno chose to eschew the traditional approach of investing in its own product pipeline (i.e. developing its own gene therapies) and instead decided to invest in the platform that will serve as the horizontal ‘infrastructure’ layer to supply novel AAVs to power all gene therapies.”
In terms of where Dyno is looking for its next big partnership deals, Kelsic said the focus was all on companies committed to using the tech to improve patient care — and that doesn’t necessarily mean just big names.
“Our mission is to maximize impact on patients so the most important thing is we want to work with partners who can accelerate the progress of curing diseases,” he said. “We would love to work with more experienced players … but in time, we really want to open up whole new frontiers, which means working with a whole new variety of different types of partners.”
With its major round in hand and a syndicate of investors backing it, it’s no question that Dyno has thought — and been asked — about an IPO given the pace of the market and its A-list support. For now, Kelsic said, the company is staying pat but never saying never.
“I would say we have a lot of options for how we fund the company, which is the best possible way to be,” Kelsic said. “We have had a lot of interest from investors at all stages as well as bankers interested in IPO, but for now we’re in really good shape with this Series A, and we still have growth to come.”