Author Archives: ac0to5

Skyhawk Therapeutics

Preclinical company developing platform to correct RNA expression in neurology, oncology and rare diseases.

Precision Biosciences

Preclinical company developing gene-editing platform for oncology and rare diseases.

Carisma Therapeutics

Preclinical company developing immunotherapy platform for oncology applications.

Verge Genomics

Preclinical company developing therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.

Palvella Therapeutics

Clinical stage company developing therapeutics for rare dermatological disorders.

Orchard Therapeutics

Commercial company developing gene therapies for rare immunology disorders.

Orbus Therapeutics

Clinical company developing therapeutics for rare brain tumors.

Aptinyx

Clinical company developing platform of neuromodulators for neurology indications.

Pliant Therapeutics Raises $62 Million in Series B Financing

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Pliant Therapeutics, Inc. today announced that it has raised $62 million in a Series B financing. The funds will support the initiation and proof-of-concept clinical trials in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), as well as ongoing drug discovery programs targeting other fibrotic diseases.

The financing was led by Cowen Healthcare Investments. Additional new investors include Eventide Asset Management, Schroder Adveq, Menlo Ventures, SCubed Capital, Agent Capital and undisclosed institutional investors.

“We appreciate the vote of confidence of our respected biotech investors who join us in the pursuit of new medicines for patients with debilitating and deadly fibrotic diseases. Our Series B financing will support the early development of our lead product candidate in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis, as well as our aggressive strategy to build our pipeline of proprietary product candidates and attract partnering opportunities,” said Bernard Coulie, M.D., Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Pliant Therapeutics.

Concurrent with the financing, Kevin Raidy, managing partner of Cowen Healthcare Investments, has joined the Pliant board of directors.

“The unique biological insights Pliant Therapeutics has uncovered about the role of integrins as key drivers of fibrosis will fuel the discovery of novel therapeutics that have the potential to address a range of fibrotic diseases. I look forward to working with the Pliant team as they leverage their product discovery engine to create multiple product candidates to treat fibrosis,” said Mr. Raidy.

Pliant’s therapeutic approach focuses on fibrotic tissue-specific inhibition of integrins and the TGF-β pathway. The company’s lead small molecule is a dual selective inhibitor of the αVβ1 and αVβ6 integrins that will be evaluated in patients with IPF and PSC. IPF is a highly lethal and rare disease that currently affects approximately 140,000 people in the U.S., resulting in 40,000 deaths per year. PSC is a rare, progressive disease of the bile ducts that can cause tumors of the bile ducts or liver, and eventually lead to liver failure. It affects approximately 30,000 people in the U.S.

In preclinical studies, the lead molecule modulates fibrotic tissue-specific integrins, which selectively block activation of TGF-β, preventing, and possibly reversing, the growth of fibrotic tissue within the lung and liver. Pliant plans to obtain proof of concept in patients for its lead molecule in 2019.

Pliant combines drug discovery and translational medicine with a unique understanding of the fibrotic disease process. The study of fresh fibrotic human tissue informs target selection and provides biological evidence for the indications the company chooses to pursue. This differentiated approach fuels Pliant’s highly productive discovery engine, which de-risks preclinical testing and is expected to generate one to two drug candidates per year for the company’s pipeline and potential partnering opportunities. The first-in-class compounds Pliant discovers may address fibrosis in a variety of organs and conditions, including the lung (IPF), muscle (Duchenne and other muscular dystrophies), liver (PSC, NASH and cirrhosis), kidney (renal fibrosis), skin (scleroderma) and the gastrointestinal tract (stricturing Crohn’s disease), creating pipeline-in-a-product opportunities.

Read the full press release here.

Verge Genomics Announces $32 Million Series A

SAN FRANCISCO — Verge Genomics, a drug discovery company utilizing machine learning to develop new therapeutics, announced today that it has raised $32 million in Series A financing led by DFJ. New biotech investors WuXi AppTec’s Corporate Venture Fund, ALS Investment Fund, Agent Capital, and OS Fund also participated in the round. The oversubscribed round brings Verge’s total funding raised to-date to more than $36 million. With this round, Emily Melton of DFJ will join Verge Genomics’ Board of Directors.

Founded in 2015, Verge intersects machine learning, neuroscience, and experimental biology to accelerate drug discovery. The Company has developed lead therapeutic programs in ALS and Parkinson’s disease at breakneck pace while establishing partnerships with two pharmaceutical companies. Verge also invested heavily in the creation of its proprietary datasets, generating one of the field’s largest and most comprehensive databases of ALS and Parkinson’s Disease patient genomic data through partnerships with a dozen top-tier academic and government organizations.

“By vertically integrating machine learning and drug development capabilities under one roof, we have been able to quickly identify dozens of promising new therapeutic opportunities for devastating diseases such as ALS and Parkinson’s Disease,” said Alice Zhang, Co-founder and CEO of Verge Genomics. “We wanted our investor syndicate to reflect the same interdisciplinary mindset and are excited to bring together top investors from both the biotech and technology sectors. This funding will allow us to advance our most promising drug candidates towards the clinic while continuing to expand our proprietary datasets and therapeutic portfolio.”

“The substantial increase in data volumes combined with the application of machine learning tools has the potential to transform drug discovery and development,” said Emily Melton, Partner at DFJ. “We were compelled by the high-caliber and multidisciplinary team at Verge Genomics and their vision to leverage the convergence of technological and neurobiological advances to discover new therapies for these complex diseases.”

“Verge has built one of the most comprehensive datasets that we have worked with for disease understanding, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Importantly, Verge’s integrated approach to drug development aligns patient data with animal models to ensure the use of appropriate translational research,” said Mr. Edward Hu, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Investment Officer of WuXi AppTec. “With our investment in Verge, we continue to strategically build multiple relationships in the area of artificial intelligence and machine learning applying to drug discovery.”

Read the full press release here.