Follow the Money: Big Investments In CRISPR, Cell Therapies, Health Data Management

February 19, 2020

February 19, 2020 | Some big investments are driving CRISPR-based therapeutics, cell therapies, sepsis diagnostics and more this year. Unspecified investments by pharma are further propelling Seqster’s health data management platform.  

$45M: Series B, CRISPR-Based Therapeutics, Diagnostics

Mammoth Biosciences, San Francisco, announced an oversubscribed round of $45 million in its Series B. The raise is led by Decheng Capital and has participation from Mayfield, NFX, Verily, Brook Byers, Plum Alley, Pacific 8, aMoon, and others. The capital will fuel the company’s further development of CRISPR diagnostics and next-generation CRISPR products as it extends its platform to include gene-editing and therapeutics as well. The investment will fuel the development of the CRISPR platform with a particular focus on the Mammoth-discovered and characterized Cas14. Cas14 is a unique enzyme that opens up new possibilities due to its extremely small size, diverse targeting ability and high-fidelity. These properties will enable Mammoth to achieve next-generation editing with a broader target range for both ex-vivo and in-vivo applications and is a foundation for enabling advanced CRISPR modalities such as targeted gene regulation, precision editing, and beyond.


$35M: Series C, Automation and Analytics for Personalized Therapeutics

Vineti, San Francisco, has announced the closing of a $35 million Series C investment to support further enhancement of the company’s automation and analytics offering, new software product development, and global commercial expansion. The financing is led by Cardinal Health, with participation from Novartis Pharma AG and Kite, a Gilead Company (Gilead Sciences, Inc.), as well as existing Vineti investors:  Canaan Partners, Threshold Ventures (formerly DFJ), Section 32, LifeForce Capital, Casdin Capital, and Hive Ventures, along with other undisclosed entities. A representative of Cardinal Health will join Vineti’s Board of Directors, and representatives of Novartis and Kite will join as board observers. The new capital will be used to further expand Vineti’s platform – which is the only platform of record currently enabling both clinical and commercial personalized therapeutics, such as CAR T and allogeneic cell therapies – into other high-value, high-complexity therapeutic supply chains. The funding will also support Vineti’s continued expansion in Europe and Asia-Pacific, providing a global solution to industrialize personalized therapies in clinical through to commercial stage.

$32M: Series C, Acute Infections, Sepsis 

Inflammatix, Burlingame, Calif., announced a $32 million Series C financing which includes participation from existing investors Khosla Ventures, Northpond Ventures and Think.Health Ventures, and new investors that include Grey Sky Venture Partners. The funds will be used to advance Inflammatix’s rapid HostDx tests through commercial launch in Europe and submission to the United States FDA 2021. Inflammatix’s HostDx Sepsis and HostDx Fever tests use proprietary machine learning algorithms that incorporate the expression of multiple immune genes (host response) to identify the presence of bacterial or viral infections and to determine if a patient has or is likely to develop sepsis at or near the point of care in 30 minutes or less.

$30M: Series B, Gene Therapies for Retinal, Ophthalmic Diseases

Eyevensys, Paris, has completed a $30 million Series B financing round led by Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund and included participation from existing investors Pontifax, Bpifrance, CapDecisif, and Inserm Transfert, as well as new investors, the Global Health Sciences (GHS) Fund (Quark Venture LP and GF Securities) and Pureos Bioventures. The company will use the funds to continue the development of its clinical lead candidate EYS606 for the treatment of chronic non-infectious uveitis (NIU), including the launch of its Electro Study. This Phase 2 trial, to be conducted in the U.S., will evaluate the safety and efficacy of EYS606 in patients with active forms of all anatomic uveitis subtypes. The funding will also advance the preclinical development of its other therapeutic proteins targeting ophthalmic diseases with unaddressed medical needs such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). EYS606 is currently in a phase I/II clinical trial in the EU and has been granted an Orphan drug designation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for the treatment of NIU.


$23M: IARPA Funding, Polymer Storage

DNA Script and its Molecular Encoding Consortium partners have been awarded a multi-phase contract worth up to $23 million from the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity’s (IARPA) Molecular Information Storage (MIST) program. The goal of the project is to develop sequence-controlled polymers as the basis for deployable storage technologies that can eventually scale into the exabyte regime and beyond with reduced physical footprint, power and cost requirements relative to conventional storage technologies. The Molecular Encoding Consortium is led by the Laboratory of Dr. Robert Nicol at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and includes DNA Script and Professor Donhee Ham’s Research Group at Harvard University. The consortium will explore the possibility of integrating a novel enzymatic DNA synthesis technology and next-generation sequencing into a single instrument over the 4-year duration of the program.  The consortium plans to collaborate with Illumina to leverage its sequencing-by-synthesis (SBS) technologies for accurate, low cost decoding. This technology is not mature yet and will require extensive development to be ready to use. IARPA has therefore launched the MIST program to fund initiatives that could turn molecular-based data storage into reality. The Molecular Encoding Consortium is one of these funded projects.

$22M: Series B, Digital PCR

Stilla Technologies, Paris, has raised €20 million in a Series B funding round that brought in a new investor, the Chinese group TUS-Holdings, alongside the participation of existing investors Illumina Ventures, Kurma Partners, LBO France, Paris Saclay Seed Funds, BNP Paribas Développement and Idinvest Partners. The funds will be used to boost the development of the company’s digital PCR solution that enables scientists to detect and quantify DNA mutations with unrivalled precision, which will feature superior analytical performance including 6-color detection capabilities. Daniel Wang, CEO of Tuspark Europe, the European subsidiary of TUS-Holdings, will join Stilla’s Board of Directors.


$14.1M: Series A Expansion, Hematopoietic Cell Transplant Therapies

Jasper Therapeutics, Palo Alto, Calif., has expanded its Series A financing with an additional investment of $14.1 million led by Roche Venture Fund and with participation from other investors, bringing the total company financing to more than $50 million to date. The initial Series A round was led by Abingworth LLP and Qiming Venture Partners USA, with further investment from Surveyor Capital (a Citadel company) and participation from Alexandria Venture Investments, LLC. Jasper plans to use the proceeds to advance and expand the study of its lead clinical asset, JSP191. A humanized antibody targeting CD117 on hematopoietic stem cells, JSP191 is designed to replace toxic chemotherapy and radiation therapy as conditioning regimens to prepare patients for curative stem cell and gene therapy. JSP191 is the only antibody of its kind in clinical development as a single conditioning agent for people undergoing curative hematopoietic cell transplantation.


$14M: Series A, Inclusive Clinical Trials

Inato, Paris, has raised a $14 million Series A round of venture capital financing. The financing was led by Obvious Ventures and Cathay Innovation, with participation from previous investors Serena and Fly Ventures. The Inato platform increases the pool of available patients engaged in clinical trials by matching the best sites for any given study and ensuring that site partners in the Inato network are successfully delivering trials. Inato will use the funding to expand its predictive capabilities to match the right sites with the right studies and develop a comprehensive network of clinicians worldwide. As a part of the financing, Nan Li, managing director at Obvious Ventures, has joined Inato’s board of directors.


$13M, Series B, Rapid Bacterial Identification, Susceptibility Testing 

Pattern Bioscience, formerly operating as Klaris Diagnostics, Austin, Tx, announced $13M in funding for the development of its Digital Culture technology. The funding includes a non-dilutive award of up to $6.8M from CARB-X, a global non-profit partnership dedicated to accelerating early stage antibacterial R&D to address the rising global threat of drug-resistant bacteria. Under the terms of the CARB-X award, when Pattern achieves certain development milestones, the company will be eligible for up to an additional $15.1M. The total potential award represents one of the largest from CARB-X since it was launched in 2016. Pattern has also closed $6.4M in Series B funding, led by Omnimed Capital, a healthcare focused venture capital firm based in Dallas. All funding will enable the company to expand its team and facilities and to advance product development as it works toward FDA clearance of its patented clinical microbiology diagnostics platform.

$10M: Series A, Digital Drug Discovery

Nicoya, Kitchener, Canada, has raised $10 million in Series A financing; the funding round was led by Whitecap Venture Partners with participation from existing investors, including Garage Capital, MaRS IAF, Laurier Startup Fund, University of Waterloo Student Venture Fund, and others. The funding will enable Nicoya to expedite the development of new products focused on drug discovery, grow its team from 50 employees to 80 over the next year, expand its reach to more international markets, and target new opportunities within the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. Nicoya’s first product, OpenSPR, is the world’s first benchtop surface plasmon resonance (SPR) instrument.


$6.6M: Late Seed Round, or Metabolism-Based Liquid Biopsies

Elypta, Stockholm, has raised €6.1 million in a late seed funding round closing in December 2019 and led by Industrifonden and Sciety. Norrsken Foundation’s newly raised impact fund also contributed, marking the first time the three entities have invested together. Other investors included Barcelona-based seed fund Nina Capital and Chalmers Ventures who has been an owner since inception. Elypta was founded in 2017 to develop the first metabolism-based liquid biopsy platform enabling early detection and closer follow-up of cancer. The company will use the funds to complete development of its laboratory kits and software for measurement and analyses of a panel of metabolites identified by Elypta’s co-founders—professor Jens Nielsen at Chalmers University of Technology and Dr Francesco Gatto, Chalmers and also CSO at Elypta—as most promising for cancer diagnostics. The initial application will be a urine test for early detection of recurring kidney cancer, a condition where there are no suitable tests currently available. The application is currently being explored through the AURORAX-87A study (NCT04006405), the largest study to date in kidney cancer diagnostics funded by a €2.35 million grant to Elypta from the EU Horizon 2020 program in 2019.


$1M: Huntington’s Disease Grant

A $1 million, two-year grant from the Dr. Ralph and Marian Falk Medical Research Trust will allow researchers from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine to further their work on developing drugs to treat Huntington’s disease (HD) and other neurological disorders. Xin Qi, an associate professor of physiology and biophysics at the School of Medicine, leads a research team that has been working for four years to develop drug treatments for HD, an inherited, chronic neurological disorder that causes brain cells to die. HD typically surfaces at age 40 and progresses until fatal 10 to 20 years after diagnosis. There is no known therapy to prevent or slow the disease.


Takeda Pharmaceuticals Invests in Seqster

Seqster, San Diego, a SaaS technology platform enabling person-centric health data management, has secured unspecified investment from Takeda Pharmaceuticals. The funds will be used to accelerate the adoption of Seqster’s interoperability technology for enhancing clinical trials, patient engagement, and outcomes. The recently released Seqster Version 5.0 creates a seamless and personalized patient experience, delivering improved patient outcomes, generating actionable data, and enhancing value across the patient journey from clinical to commercial.  It is supported by a platform designed for patients and their needs, featuring one core patient engagement platform that brings disparate data sets together in a common form.


GHO Capital invests in FairJourney Biologics, Antibody Discovery

Global Healthcare Opportunities, London, or GHO Capital Partners LLP, has made an unspecified investment in FairJourney Biologics. FairJourney provides outsourced antibody discovery, engineering, production and characterization services to deliver a critical step in the biologics drug discovery value chain for small and mid-sized biopharma. In partnership with founding management, GHO will provide further capital, sector expertise and international network to build on FairJourney’s unique market position and create a scaled global leader in outsourced biologics discovery and development services. The Company will look to expand its footprint, capacity and service capabilities through both organic and inorganic opportunities to accelerate and deliver the next stage of growth.


Crohn's & Colitis Foundation Grant to Improve IBD Patient Outcomes

TISSIUM, Paris, announced unspecified funding from the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation's IBD Ventures to support TISSIUM’s development of fully synthetic, biomorphic programmable polymers that address the unmet medical needs of Crohn’s patients. TISSIUM will be evaluating a novel biomaterial-based solution to promote fistula healing without diminishing continence or damaging the sphincter.