With new $106M crossover round, Tenaya preps heart failure programs for the clinic — and maybe an IPO
Less than a year and a half since pulling in its last round of funding, Tenaya Therapeutics is back with a crossover round that could set it up for an IPO down the road.
Private and public investors have now jumped aboard the Tenaya train to the tune of a $106 million Series C, the company announced Monday morning, with the hopes of advancing its lead gene therapy program for heart failure into the clinic. Tenaya also aims to fund its other heart failure platforms, having made much progress in cellular regeneration and precision medicine as well, CEO Faraz Ali told Endpoints News.
“For us it’s not about opportunistically trying to catch an IPO window,” Ali said, “but feeling that our science has arrived at a point on multiple fronts that we have a reason to believe that each of these platforms can deliver products that could be meaningful in humans.”
Ali added that Tenaya hasn’t made any concrete plans for an IPO just yet, but they’re “absolutely thinking about” going public, given the market conditions that have led to a biotech boom over the last 12 months.
The South San Francisco-based company got started way back in December 2016 with a $50 million Series A look at how fresh sources of regenerative cells could potentially repair a damaged heart. It had been an area that previously drove a variety of largely unsuccessful research efforts aimed at helping patients who have suffered from heart attacks and strokes.
But Tenaya has grown to about 80 staffers over the last several years and built out its three different platforms. Aside from the gene therapy programs, Tenaya is working on a single AAV vector-based cell therapy and a small molecule treatment for different heart failure populations.
In October 2019, Ali led a $92 million Series B, and Tenaya hadn’t yet disclosed many of its targets. Now, however, they’re ready to dish on the details. Their lead candidate is targeting genetic hypertrophic cardiomyopathy due to mutations in the MYBPC3 gene, with an AAV gene therapy, in both adults and children.
The disease itself has a broad range of symptoms, with some adults experiencing no symptoms for years while others can die within a few weeks of being born. It essentially causes sickening of the heart ventricles, Ali said, causing reductions in ejection fraction. There’s currently no targeted therapy for the disease, and Tenaya is aiming to be the first to deliver a healthy copy of the gene.
They’re considering an IV infusion formulation or a possible delivery closer to the heart. To accomplish this and lower manufacturing costs, Tenaya has also invested in its own catheters.
Beyond that, the company is researching another gene therapy involving DWORF, a micro-peptide acting on the SERCA pathway. There’s also a program focused on cardiac regeneration, using a single AAV vector to deliver combinations of multiple genes that drive in vivo reprogramming of cardiac fibroblasts to create new heart muscle cells, as well as a small molecule going after a still-unnamed target to treat genetic dilated cardiomyopathy.
“The heart failure field had really fallen out of favor for a period of time,” Ali said. “Traditional small molecule programs against some of the usual targets … had sort of petered out, and there were several failures in large outcome studies. So something had to change.”
Monday’s round was led by RTW Investments, and new investors RA Capital, Fidelity Management & Research Company and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price. Tenaya saw additional participation from all existing investors including The Column Group, Casdin Capital, GV and others.