Tim Lu takes Senti and its gene circuit tech public in $296M deal riding on Omid Farokhzad's SPAC
Omid Farokhzad didn’t have to travel far to find a private biotech he wanted to take public with his $200 million blank-check company.
Senti Bio — the synthetic biology play launched and now helmed by MIT whiz Tim Lu — will be merging with Farokhzad’s Dynamics Special Purpose Corp., the companies announced Monday morning, in a deal set to deliver $296 million in gross proceeds.
Using a gene circuit technology platform out of Lu’s lab, Senti promises to program “sense-compute-respond” capabilities into cell and gene therapies.
The engineering method promises to enhance efficacy, specificity and durability — all key qualities any cell and gene therapy developer is looking for.
BlueRock Therapeutics, the Bayer subsidiary, was one of them. Earlier this year (in fact the day after Farokhzad completed the IPO for his SPAC) BlueRock signed on to deploy the technology in developing new cell therapies for regenerative use.
The merger marks a hefty endorsement from a group deeply connected in the biotech field. The crew at Dynamics Special Purpose Corp includes CEO Mostafa Ronaghi, former chief technology officer at Illumina; CFO Mark Afrasiabi, who had co-headed the investment committee at Silver Rock Financial; CBO Rowan Chapman out of J&J Innovation and three independent board members: David Epstein, the former Novartis pharma chief now at Flagship, former Illumina CEO Jay Flatley and senior managing partner of the SoftBank Vision Fund, Deep Nishar.
Farokhzad, the CEO of Seer, longtime Harvard academic and serial entrepreneur, praised Senti’s foundational technology for having “game-changing implications for treating a variety of cancers, as well as potential applications beyond oncology.”
On top of the cash reserves inside Dynamics, existing SPAC investors are chiming in to provide $86 million — including ARK Investment Management, funds and accounts managed by Counterpoint Global (Morgan Stanley Investment Management), Invus and T. Rowe Price funds. Others, including 8VC, Amgen Ventures, LifeForce Capital, NEA, Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, are swelling the PIPE financing by another $66 million to a total $153 million.
“With recent advances in synthetic biology, computation, and massive biological data generation, I believe that we have a unique opportunity to engineer intelligent cell and gene therapies that directly tackle the heterogeneity and dynamic nature of disease, which have the potential to fundamentally transform our therapeutic arsenal,” Lu said in a statement.
The new funds, he added, will fuel the internal pipeline as Senti plans to file its first INDs in 2023 for a logic-gated allogeneic CAR-NK cell therapy dubbed SENTI-202 (for acute myeloid leukemia) and another multi-armed allogeneic CAR-NK cell therapy dubbed SENTI-301 (for hepatocellular carcinoma). The crew will also work on additional candidates while building out clinical-scale manufacturing for the off-the-shelf CAR-NK cell therapies.