Eye­ing RNAi po­ten­tial in can­cer and fi­bro­sis, trans-Pa­cif­ic biotech Sir­naomics lines up $47M Se­ries C

With sup­port from a syn­di­cate that speaks to its ex­ten­sive Chi­na ties, Gaithers­burg, MD-based Sir­naomics has raised an ad­di­tion­al $22 mil­lion to close out its C round.

Patrick Lu

As its name sug­gests, the biotech is fo­cused on all things re­lat­ed to small in­ter­fer­ing RNA (siR­NA), the key mol­e­cule mR­NA si­lenc­ing. Pop­u­lar­ized by Al­ny­lam, which scored the field’s first FDA ap­proval, siR­NA kicks off ac­tion in the RNA-in­duced si­lenc­ing com­plex, which then goes on to cleave a spe­cif­ic mR­NA, there­by down­reg­u­lat­ing tar­get genes.

Sir­naomics’ big idea is to em­ploy a bet­ter ve­hi­cle to car­ry the siR­NA car­go to cells: a polypep­tide nano-par­ti­cle, or PNP, com­posed of a branched his­ti­dine ly­sine poly­mer. Ac­cord­ing to the com­pa­ny, the pep­tide is biodegrad­able, of­fers pro­tec­tion to the siR­NA while in the blood­stream, and can car­ry mul­ti­ple siR­NA se­quences, al­low­ing their prod­ucts to go af­ter mul­ti­ple genes at once. The last prop­er­ty, it em­pha­sizes, is es­pe­cial­ly cru­cial for tar­get­ing can­cer.

CR-CP Life Sci­ences Fund — a joint ven­ture of two con­glom­er­ates from Hong Kong and Thai­land re­spec­tive­ly — led the Se­ries C2. Rich Yield Cap­i­tal, Rolling Boul­der In­vest­ment and Leg­end Sky In­vest­ment all chipped in to bring Sir­naomics over the $47 mil­lion line in to­tal.

The pro­ceeds will help pro­pel the lead drug can­di­date, STP705, for­ward, in­clud­ing an on­go­ing Phase II for non-melanoma skin can­cer and an­oth­er in bile duct can­cer/liv­er can­cer slat­ed to be­gin lat­er this year. There’s al­so a Phase II tri­al for hy­per­trophic scar re­duc­tion in Chi­na as Sir­naomics’ ex­plores the lead drug’s po­ten­tial in fi­brot­ic dis­eases.

“Sir­naomics is the on­ly biotech­nol­o­gy com­pa­ny con­duct­ing clin­i­cal drug de­vel­op­ment in the field of RNAi ther­a­peu­tics both in USA and Chi­na, the two ma­jor mar­kets for on­col­o­gy and fi­bro­sis,” Da Liu, the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of CR-CP Life Sci­ence Fund, said in a state­ment.

Liu added that the biotech has a “tru­ly in­ter­na­tion­al” man­age­ment team, with a siz­able C-suite com­pris­ing CEO Patrick Lu, CMO Michael Molyneaux, CSO David Evans, COO George Ji, chief tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer Dmit­ry Samarsky, and chief pro­duc­tion of­fi­cer Marc Lemaître.

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.

In fi­nal days at Mer­ck, Roger Perl­mut­ter bets big on a lit­tle-known Covid-19 treat­ment

Roger Perlmutter is spending his last days at Merck, well, spending.

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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Pascal Soriot (AP Images)

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 (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

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.

Companies were rushing to develop vaccines and antibodies for the new virus, but even if they succeeded, there was no immediate supply chain or infrastructure to mass-produce them in a way that could make a dent in the outbreak.

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Peter Thiel (Riccardo Savi/Sipa via AP Images)

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.

The C round — which includes a $32 million conversion of notes to equity — will fuel the development programs at ATAI Life Sciences, a Berlin-based biotech that has assembled a portfolio of companies with psychedelic and non-psychedilc approaches to depression, anxiety and addiction.

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Carl Hansen, AbCellera CEO (University of British Columbia)

From a pair of Air Jor­dans to a $200M-plus IPO, Carl Hansen is craft­ing an overnight R&D for­tune fu­eled by Covid-19

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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Simeon George, SR One CEO (SR One)

Scoop: SR One crew com­pletes a com­pli­cat­ed spin­out from Glax­o­SmithK­line. And now they have a $500M fund to in­vest on their own

It’s taken close to 2 years, but Simeon George and his team at SR One have completed their spinout from GlaxoSmithKline, ending a saga as one of the longest running venture arms of Big Pharma as they go out on their own to forge the next chapter with a new and independent $500 million fund.

GSK is sticking with the spinout, this time as a minority investor — though a big one. And I’m told that the R&D group at GSK will remain involved in evaluating their new plays, helping with the scientific due diligence involved in scouting the world for new opportunities during a period of explosive growth in biotech investing.

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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.

They were sitting around a table, discussing an MD Anderson study which provided some of the first clinical proof that natural killer (NK) cells can be reengineered to attack tumors, much like CAR-T therapies. It was a “long and lively” discussion, COO Mark Boshar recalls. And by the time it was over, they had a starting point to launch a company.

Leonard Schleifer, Regeneron CEO (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Trail­ing Eli Lil­ly by 12 days, Re­gen­eron gets the FDA OK for their Covid-19 an­ti­body cock­tail

A month and a half after becoming the experimental treatment of choice for a newly diagnosed president, Regeneron’s antibody cocktail has received emergency use authorization from the FDA. It will be used to treat non-hospitalized Covid-19 patients who are at high-risk of progressing.

Although the Rgeneron drug is not the first antibody treatment authorized by the FDA, the news comes as a significant milestone for a company and a treatment scientists have watched closely since the outbreak began.