Nasal sprays to stave off viruses days at a time? J&J’s newest biotech partner draws $140M for 'proactive' approach
Vaccines. Antibodies. Antivirals. The Covid-19 pandemic has given the world a crash course on the key medical tools that can protect humans from viruses. But one startup believes there’s plenty of room for another new option.
Blue-chip investors are pouring support into the company, Leyden Labs, with a $140 million Series B to back its broad “protection at the gate” approach.
The name of the game at Leyden is intranasal sprays that can be administered mucosally — including compounds developed in-house and formulations of existing experimental drugs.
Just a week ago, the biotech announced that it had licensed a “pan-influenza” monoclonal antibody from J&J’s Janssen dubbed CR9114, which it says protects against both influenza A and B. The resulting intranasal product, Leyden notes, will be called PanFlu and positioned against both seasonal flu and future flu pandemics.
As with the other programs in development — and Leyden is keeping them secret for now — the idea is to create easy-to-use nasal sprays that cover a wide range of viruses, from known variants to emerging ones, by targeting certain commonalities among a virus family and preventing them from entering cells.
“People can use it for the times that they need — when they go out to ballgames, when they go out to work, to a crowded bus or a long haul flight, they can use the intranasal products, the nasal sprays, to protect themselves temporarily,” CEO Koenraad Wiedhaup told Endpoints News last March, when the company launched.
While details are still scarce, investors seem to place ample faith in the seasoned team, as Wiedhaup and his co-founders — Jaap Goudsmit, Ronald Brus and Dinko Valerio — had worked together at Crucell, the vaccine specialist eventually acquired by J&J.
Since the debut, Leyden has added a Boston office and beefed up the team, most recently recruiting Suha Jhaveri from Vir — the largest other biotech developing pan-flu antibodies —to become chief commercial officer and head of business development.
Casdin and GV, which participated in the $47 million Series A, returned to lead the new round alongside old backers F-Prime and Byers Capital. The syndicate also features new investors SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Invus and Bluebird Ventures.
In a statement, Eli Casdin, chief investment officer and founder at Casdin Capital, praised Leyden’s “proactive approach” to addressing infectious diseases.