Two of the hottest fields in biopharma got another injection of cash this week, with a mixed $72 million in Series A financing.
That includes $32 million raised by Frequency Therapeutics to help its novel regenerative medicine approach, and a separate $40 million round for Cirius Therapeutics’ take on liver fibrosis and NASH.
Headquartered in Woburn, Ma, Frequency Therapeutics was founded in 2015 with an objective to kickstart one of the body’ s natural healing mechanisms. Its $32 million Series A financing round was brought by CoBro Ventures, with support from Morningside Endeavors, Emigrant Capital, Korean Investment Partnership, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, and others.
Frequency is built around the so-called Progenitor Cell Activation (PCA) platform developed by Robert Langer and Jeffrey Karp from MIT and Harvard Medical School. Progenitor cells are slightly more specialized compared to stem cells. And while they typically lie dormant right after fetal development, they can be activated to regenerate damaged tissue — similar to the way stems cells do.
They’ re “ already in the right place and taught to do the right job, ” explained Frequency cofounder plus CSO Chris Loose, in an email forwarded by a firm representative.
While the PCA platform could in theory be applied to many fields, such as skin disorders, muscle regeneration, plus gastrointestinal diseases, the initial R& D focus will be chronic hearing loss. This often occurs with the continuous loss of key cells in the inner ear, called physical hair cells.
Frequency’ s small particle therapy would activate the progenitor cells waiting within the wings, helping to replace the lost cells and lack of function for the remainder of the patient’ s life.
“ Once a new hair cell is regenerated, we expect it to be long-lasting, ” Loose described. “ The hair cells you are born with are the types you die with, so a hair cell might survive and function for over 100 years in some people. ”
Also on Tuesday, Cirius Therapeutics (previously known as Octeta Therapeutics) publicized a $40 million Collection A round. The financing was led by Frazier Healthcare Partners and Novo A/S.
The cash is destined to fund the company’ s ongoing EMMINENCE trial, a Phase 2b study of its second-generation insulin sensitizer, MSDC-0602K, for the treatment of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) plus liver fibrosis.
It speaks to the book approach Cirius is taking to control the silent pandemic of NASH, which often strikes alongside obesity, metabolic symptoms, and type 2 diabetes.
In a company statement, newly-announced CEO Bob Baltera explained the connection.
“ A great deal of fresh data, including results from a Phase 2 trial within patients with Type 2 diabetes, has been generated showing that these next-generation insulin sensitizers act in a novel method to positively impact the underlying metabolic parameters that drive NASH, ” Baltera said.
The challenge for your company is ensuring the safety of its candidate, MSDC-0602K. While promising, existing insulin sensitizers come with an variety of problematic side effects — and NASH is a high-risk affected person population.
On the other hand, there are no disease-modifying remedies on the market, so a little benefit will go a long way.
Echoing others in the field, one of the lead investors noted that the combination approach to NASH will likely work best.
“ At Frazier, we believe the future of NASH remedies will be a multi-drug approach, with a need for therapies that tackle the underlying metabolic drivers of disease, as well as resultant fibrosis and inflammation, ” said Dan Estes of Frzaier Healthcare. “ We see a distinct opportunity for MSDC-0602K to become cornerstone therapy in NASH, both as monotherapy yet ultimately as part of combination approaches. ”
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