Gene therapy 3.0 efforts net SalioGen a nine-figure Series B, but much remains under wraps
Roughly 10 months ago, a fledgling biotech emerged from stealth with a modest Series A and a big promise looking to develop gene therapy 3.0. The promise inched closer to reality Wednesday as investors have now hopped on board thanks to a new, nine-figure round.
SalioGen Therapeutics closed its $115 million Series B, the company announced Wednesday morning, aiming to push forward its “gene coding” platform and growing preclinical pipeline. The biotech, which focuses on activating dormant mammalian enzymes to edit genes in vivo, secured the new raise after fleshing out some of the technologies’ applications, CEO Ray Tabibiazar told Endpoints News.
Touting the company’s ability to characterize such enzymes, Tabibiazar said the platform “has the ability to integrate any size of genetic code into the genome. So that allows you not only to pursue large genes, but multiple genes.”
The methodology also doesn’t require the need for the nucleases and viral vectors associated with earlier forms of gene editing, such as CRISPR. SalioGen’s platform, Tabibiazar said, can edit the genome without causing “any double strand DNA breaks, or even single strand breaks.”
A lot has gone on behind the scenes that SalioGen isn’t ready to share just yet, however, as Tabibiazar declined to put a timeline on when his company’s programs would hit the clinic. SalioGen’s website lists several disease areas it’s exploring, including familial hypercholesterolemia and inherited macular degeneration, but Tabibiazar further declined to say which, if any, represent the biotech’s lead program.
“That’s one of the advantages of being a private company,” Tabibiazar said, adding, “One of the ways that we run the company, we have multiple horses in a race. So we are really advancing a pipeline of programs … that’s exactly one of the reasons we actually raised large capital.”
Everything remains in the pre-IND phase, though the FH and eye programs are among the closest to being ready for human testing. SalioGen is also working on programs for the heart, bone marrow and kidney, as well as a cystic fibrosis candidate that garnered investment interest from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in Wednesday’s raise.
SalioGen has also ramped up work on discovering more enzymes that could potentially be used to deliver its treatments. Tabibiazar said any of the enzymes are programmable regardless of the affected or diseased tissue, but he again demurred when asked how many enzymes SalioGen is working to characterize.
“I can tell you we’ve done more than one,” he said.
As the biotech IPO market slowed down late last year, investors largely turned their focus toward earlier-stage investments in companies that had not yet produced clinical data. SalioGen is seemingly a part of this trend, now having raised $135 million in less than a year.
But Tabibiazar isn’t looking at making the public leap just yet, saying SalioGen has “plenty of cushion” to advance its pipeline and platform right now. That being said, he noted how every company has to leave its options open and be opportunistic if the right moment comes along.
“It’s the timing of when you raise more money, and how you do it needs to be tailored to the needs of the company,” he said. “Right now we have, you know, $115 million that we can support our programs, so we don’t have any immediate need to raise more money.”
Wednesday’s round was co-led by GordonMD Global Investments and EPIQ Capital Group. In addition to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, new investors included Fidelity Management & Research Company, T. Rowe Price, D1 Capital Partners, SymBiosis, the venture arm of Foundation Fighting Blindness and others. The round also included continued support from PBM Capital, which led the Series A.