Freeline Therapeutics Holdings Plc, a UK gene therapy company, is to become a private company once again following an agreement with a portfolio company of Syncona, its majority shareholder and co-founder, to acquire all of the shares that Syncona doesn’t already own. Syncona co-founded Freeline in 2015 with the aim of developing gene therapies for chronic debilitating diseases. In 2020, Freeline went public with the issue of 8.8 million American Depositary Shares (ADSs) on the US Nasdaq market, raising $158.8 million.
Finance, Grants, Deals
Netherlands-based VectorY Therapeutics has raised €129 million in a Series A financing round to support the clinical development of a product for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) based on vectorised antibodies. Co-led by EQT Life Sciences and the Forbion Growth Opportunities Fund, the money will be used to develop VTx-002 and other programmes for neurodegenerative diseases.
An Austrian start-up company, HeartBeat.bio AG, has raised €4.5 million in pre-Series A financing to develop an organoid screening platform for the discovery of new drugs for heart disease. Organoids are miniature, simplified versions of human organs that are used in medical research and development. The investor syndicate included i&i Biotech Fund, Invest AG, aws Gründungsfonds II, and Tensor Ventures. The financing will support the company’s needs until 2025 when a full Series A round is expected to be launched.
AstraZeneca Plc is to work with gene editing technologies developed by Cellectis SA of France to identify up to 10 candidate cell and gene therapies for cancer, and autoimmune and rare diseases. Founded in 1999, Cellectis has technology for creating allogeneic chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells by gene editing cells from a healthy donor. The editing technology disables genes that cause donor cells to attack the host.
Aiolos Bio Inc launched as a new company on 24 October with an asset for the treatment of asthma and $245 million in Series A financing from a syndicate co-led by Forbion, Atlas Venture, Bain Capital Life Sciences, and Sofinnova Investments. The launch was announced just two months after Aiolos acquired rights to a monoclonal antibody that inhibits thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) from a company in China. TSLP is a cytokine and regulator of the immune response to allergens, viruses and pollutants.
Novo Nordisk A/S has expanded its core franchise in diabetes with the acquisition of a candidate drug for uncontrolled hypertension with potential application for cardiovascular and kidney diseases. The developer is KBP Biosciences PTE of Singapore which is expected to receive up to $1.3 billion for the drug.
Forbion, the Netherlands-based venture group, has launched a new company, Tessellate BIO BV, to develop treatments for cancers that exploit deficiencies in two or more genes leading to cell death. Known as synthetic lethality, the approach has particular relevance for precision medicine. Tessellate was founded by BioGeneration Ventures, a joint venture with Forbion that focuses on company creation and early-stage finance.
UK-based Antiverse Ltd is to extend a collaboration with GlobalBio Inc, a US antibody engineering company, to identify new checkpoint inhibitors for cancer. This follows the successful generation of two candidate anti-PD-1 antibodies that are now entering preclinical development. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
The Roche Group is to pay $7.1 billion upfront to acquire Telavant Holdings Inc, developer of a late-stage antibody therapeutic for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The deal also includes a near-term milestone payment of $150 million.
Telavant’s lead product, RVT-3101, is a monoclonal antibody that inhibits TL1A, a member of the tumour necrosis family which is expressed in immune cells. It is abnormally expressed in autoimmune diseases, including IBD.
Agomab Therapeutics NV, a Belgian biotech founded in 2017 to explore the potential of a critical biological pathway to achieve tissue repair, closed a $100 million Series C financing round on 11 October to support clinical development of a drug for fibrostenosing Crohn’s disease. The drug, AGMB-129, is a small molecule inhibitor of ALK5 (also known as TGF beta receptor 1), a regulator of fibrosis. Fidelity Management & Research Company led the round, with participation from new investors EQT Life Sciences, Canaan, Dawn Biopharma and existing investors.