RA Capital leads $125M for Janux in VC's latest crossover bid
Four months ago, only a short list of people had ever heard of Janux Therapeutics. Today, they have a partnership with Merck, $212 million in VC capital and, it seems, plans for an IPO.
Janux announced Tuesday a $125 million crossover round led by RA Capital, the Boston VC behind a spate of recent pre-IPO financings. Janux declined an interview request, a common move for biotechs preparing to go public in the near future.
After spending more than three years in stealth mode, Janux emerged in December with the Merck partnership. The biotech had developed a set of antibodies that can attack cancer by bridging T cells to solid tumors. Unlike earlier generations of so-called T cell-engagers, though, Janux says their antibodies are only active in the tumor’s micro-environment, where the therapy will help the immune system attack cancer without damaging healthy tissues.
In one of his last moves before retirement, Merck R&D chief Roger Perlmutter saw enough potential to offer the then-little known biotech up to $500 million per program — part of the Big Pharma’s efforts to expand their immuno-oncology platform beyond Keytruda. They announced a Series A one month later.
Janux has yet to enter the clinic, a milestone biotechs used to wait for before going public. In the last year, though, a slate of biotechs have secured fortunes before putting candidates into humans, including the conjugate vaccine company VaxCyte, the gene therapy company Generation Bio, and the cell therapy company Sana Biotechnology.
The new financing will help Janux push three different therapies into Phase I, the company said: an engager for Trop2 — the same target Immunomedics’ $21 billion ADC goes after — an engager for PSMA, and an engager for EGFR. They did not offer details on when those trials would begin.
“We intend to use the proceeds to advance PSMA-TRACTr, EGFR-TRACTr, and TROP2-TRACTr into the clinic,” CEO David Campbell said in a statement, “as well as attract the talent needed to realize our vision of providing cancer patients with safe and effective drugs that direct their immune system to eradicate tumors to give them the best chance to overcome their disease.”