Follow the Money: Microbiome, ‘Omics, Vaccine Patches

October 28, 2020

October 28, 2020 | Money for oral microbiome drugs, ‘omics, a biology plus technology transistor, digital biomarker platform, a vaccine patch that doesn’t require refrigeration, and more.


$90M: Oral Microbiome Drugs  

Finch Therapeutics (Somerville, Mass.) announced a $90 million Series D financing. New investors in the round include Baupost Group, Humboldt Fund, MSD Capital, MSD Partners, Octave Group, and OMX Ventures, along with support from existing investors, including Avenir Growth Capital, OCV Partners, Shumway Capital, SIG, SymBiosis, TPTF, and Willett Advisors. Finch will use the proceeds from the financing to advance CP101 through the final stages of clinical development and regulatory submission in recurrent C. difficile infection (CDI), and to advance its platform and pipeline, including the initiation of Phase 1b studies evaluating FIN-211 for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and CP101 for chronic hepatitis B (HBV).


$72M: Debt and Equity Financing For ‘Omics

Metabolon (Morrisville, North Carolina) closed on $72 million in combined debt and equity financing. This round of financing included Perceptive Advisors as a new participant. EW Healthcare Partners and other existing investors also participated in the financing. By leveraging its proprietary metabolite database, Metabolon can decipher thousands of discrete chemical signals from genetic and non-genetic factors to reveal biological pathways. Metabolon’s technology makes connections where other ‘omics cannot and provides the definitive representation of the phenotype.


$22M: Needle-Free Vaccine Patch for Pandemic Response

Vaxxas (Cambridge, Mass., and Brisbane, Australia) has received a $22 million Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) award to support the deployment of Vaxxas’ proprietary HD-MAP technology platform in response to pandemic threats to public health enabling rapid vaccine distribution without refrigeration, and creating a novel option for self-administration. The award is aimed at advancing clinical demonstration of Vaxxas’ proprietary HD-MAP patch for pandemic influenza. Aligned with this approach, Vaxxas is actively investigating opportunities to improve performance of other pandemic vaccines including against COVID-19, as well as a broad range of non-pandemic infectious disease vaccines. Under the terms of the award, contract number 75A50120C00180, Vaxxas will perform a phase 1 clinical study using Vaxxas’ high density micro-array patch (HD-MAP) delivering pandemic influenza vaccine to more than 400 people using both unadjuvanted and adjuvanted vaccine formulations. The total cost of this project is estimated to be $24.1 million of which 8.5% or $2.1 million will be contributed by Vaxxas.


$17.8M: Finger-Prick Blood Infection Diagnostic

Lumos Diagnostics (Melbourne) has closed an oversubscribed AU$25 million pre-IPO capital raise, ahead of an anticipated 2021 Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) listing. The funding will enable Lumos to continue to build its high-growth rapid diagnostics business in the U.S., including expanding manufacturing operations in California and Florida and continuing commercial growth of its FebriDx product, a world-first finger prick blood test that can indicate if a person has a bacterial or viral infection within 10 minutes. The capital was raised from a combination of institutional funds, including Perennial Value and Ellerston Capital, and sophisticated investors, many of whom have backed Lumos through previous capital raises.


$16M: Series B to Expand Digital Biomarker Platform

Koneksa (New York) has completed a $16M Series B financing round led by Spring Mountain Capital and joined by investments from McKesson Ventures, Novartis Pharma AG, and MBX Capital with participation from all existing investors. The company plans to use the investment to expand the development of its digital platform for integrating wearables, sensors, and other patient-facing technologies into clinical research. Since its launch in 2015, Koneksa has partnered with pharmaceutical and biotech companies to develop and implement digital biomarkers that support clinical development programs across therapeutic areas including neuroscience, respiratory, rare diseases, and oncology.


$8.8M: Series A for Bone Image Semi-Automated Diagnoses

GLEAMER (Paris) has secured € 7.5 million in a Series A round led by XAnge, alongside new investors MACSF, Majycc eSanté Invest and Crista Galli Ventures, as well as previous investors Elaia and the state-run fund Ambition Amorçage Angels (F3A), which is managed by Bpifrance as part of its Investments for the Future Program (PIA). In addition, 37 radiologists, including Professor Nicolas Theumann, participated in this round, which is expected to boost the market launches of BoneView, the first A.I. application in the company's software line, in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. The funds raised will also be used to obtain the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) clearance to market BoneView in the U.S. and to keep developing GLEAMER's A.I. product line in other areas of radiology.


$7.5M: Series A2 For Biology Transistors

Cardea Bio (San Diego) has closed their A2 financing round for $7.5M. The round was led by a partnership of VCs; Tsingyuan Ventures, Lifespan Investments, and longtime Cardea investor Serra Ventures, as well as Agilent Technologies, Table Mountain Capital, Photon Fund, and Taihill Venture (former Skylight Investment). The capital will help accelerate the growth and development of the Company’s proprietary technology with biology infrastructure: integrating tiny bits of biology into modern electronics, via their Graphene-based Biology-gated Transistors (“Cardean Transistors”). Since its last round of fundraising in March 2019, the company launched CRISPR-Chip that is built with its proprietary Cardean Transistors. The first of its kind chipset uses CRISPR as the transistor gate, and harvests CRISPR’s powerful natural ability to search through genomes for genetic sequences of interest. This is all accomplished without the need of PCR/DNA amplification, enabling the user to observe the CRISPR search activity and results live on a computer screen.


$5.5M: NIH Grant to Diagnose Dementias

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have been awarded a $5.5 million, five-year award from the National Institutes of Health to optimize emerging methods of diagnosing two common neurodegenerative diseases—dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia. Researchers will use real-time quaking-induced conversion (RT-QuIC)—a relatively-new technology originally developed at NIH’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories—to hone the identification of the telltale protein deposits of these brain diseases, in areas of the body outside of the brain. The results could eventually help doctors track the levels and distribution of the proteins known as alpha-synuclein, or “Lewy bodies” across tissue sites during different stages of these dementias, as well as their correlation with symptoms.


$4M: Neurodegenerative Diseases of the Eye

The Diana Davis Spencer Foundation has pledged $4 million to further support vision research at The Jackson Laboratory (JAX). The gift will fund the institution’s scientific research and training activities in the field of neurodegenerative diseases of the eye, including graduate and postdoctoral fellowship training and research projects in glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and ocular signs of Alzheimer’s disease.


$3.3M: Gates Foundation Grant for mRNA-based Therapies for Sickle Cell Disease

GreenLight Biosciences (Boston) has received a $3.3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop new mRNA-based gene therapies for Sickle Cell Disease and other global health challenges. The funding will support GreenLight's research and testing of affordable therapies using the company's novel messenger RNA (mRNA) approach to gene editing. While initial research will focus on a cure for Sickle Cell Disease, GreenLight plans to develop a versatile gene editing platform to address a variety of diseases affecting underserved patient populations, such as treating HIV in developing countries. Gene editing therapies hold significant promise in the treatment of Sickle Cell Disease since it is a disorder caused by gene mutation.


$1.6M: SBIR Grant For Kidney Disease Test

Scanwell Health (Los Angeles) has been awarded a $1.6M National Institutes of Health (NIH) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant. The grant will provide funds for the continued development of Scanwell’s smartphone-enabled, at-home test for chronic kidney disease (CKD). It is estimated that more than 30 million people in the US have some form of kidney disease. Due to the asymptomatic nature of early CKD, many who have it are unaware: according to the National Kidney Foundation, approximately 90% of those with CKD don’t know they have it. Scanwell’s test will make screening for and monitoring early CKD quick and easy. The company’s technology will allow patients to test themselves from home using only a urine test kit and their smartphones, resulting in earlier diagnosis and accelerated care.


$300,000: NIH Award For Preterm Birth

Aqualung Therapeutics (Tuscon, Ariz.) has been awarded a one year NIH FAST-TRACK AWARD (1R41 HD101202-01A1) to support development of a humanized antibody therapy for pregnant women with intrauterine infection at risk for preterm birth. Aqualung Therapeutics scientists have identified extracellular NAMPT or eNAMPT, a master regulator of tissue and systemic inflammation as a novel therapeutic target in chorioamnionitis, or intrauterine infection. ALT has demonstrated robust NAMPT expression in placentas from women with chorioamnionitis. In a preclinical pregnant mouse model of ChorP, an eNAMPT-neutralizing antibody was dramatically protective, improving preterm birth mortality and inflammation in newborn pups. This NIH STTR Award will drive the final selection of the lead eNAMPT-neutralizing humanized therapeutic mAb between two candidates, ALT-100 and ALT -200; with selection utilizing in vitro and preclinical in vivo models of chorioamnionitis. Upon confirmation of the optimal mAb candidate in treating chorioamnionitis, Aqualung will submit an R42 STTR grant to further support pre-clinical development and IND-enabling studies.