Jose Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos has found the back door to Nasdaq.
The CEO at Cambridge, MA-based Synlogic is executing a reverse merger with the failed Austin-based biotech Mirna Therapeutics, which will put the synthetic biology company into the public market. And in addition, the biotech says that it recently closed a $42 million C round to back its transition into the spotlight of public reporting.
Reverse mergers are certainly not unusual. We’ve seen a string of companies opt to hop onto the burnt out shell of a failed biotech to reverse their way onto Wall Street — particularly since the IPO boom died down. Recently, though, IPOs have been picking up, leaving many of the reverse plays to execs who either didn’t want to do dozens of road shows for investors or who felt that they wouldn’t get a particularly warm reception if they did.
Gutierrez-Ramos left a prominent position in Pfizer’s R&D organization to join the migration out of Big Pharma and into biotech circles. But it’s still early days at the company, which specializes in reengineering bacteria into therapeutics. Synlogic is planning to start its first Phase I safety study for a lead drug — SYNB1020 — for urea cycle disorders and hepatic encephalopathy in the next few months. A second program is being readied for the clinic with plans to target phenylketonuria (PKU), which is caused by defective metabolism of the amino acid phenylalanine.
The C round gives Synlogic $82 million in cash on hand. The money was put up by Aju IB Investment, Ally Bridge Group, Arctic Aurora LifeScience, CLI Ventures, Perceptive Advisors, Rock Springs Capital, and “other undisclosed new investors.” Atlas Venture, Deerfield, New Enterprise Associates, and OrbiMed, which helped back the company after Gutierrez-Ramos made the leap two years ago, also took part in the latest round.
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