Decentralized, Virtual Trials Take the Day: Follow the Money

June 3, 2021 | Funding for streamlined decentralized trials and virtual research software solutions lead the funding in the clinical research space. Other big winners: a new preclinical fund and AI for various indications.

  

$1.4B: Middle Market Healthcare Fund 

Frazier Healthcare Partners has closed its 10th dedicated healthcare private equity fund focused on the middle market. Frazier Healthcare Growth Buyout Fund X, L.P. (FHGB X) was oversubscribed and hit its hard cap of $1.4 billion in total capital commitments. The offering garnered strong support from new and existing limited partners, with commitments coming globally from investors in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The majority of investors from its previous fund, FHGB IX, increased their commitment for FHGB X. Frazier focuses on acquiring controlling interests in healthcare companies with EBITDA between $10 million and $75 million where it can invest between $50 million and $300 million of equity. Investments can take the form of corporate carveouts of private and publicly traded companies, recapitalizations and buy-and-build strategies.

 

$515M: Early-Stage Life Sciences Fund Launch 

Perceptive Advisors has announced the first and final closing of Perceptive Xontogeny Venture Fund II with $515 million in capital commitments in an oversubscribed fund to further the firm’s early-stage life sciences platform. PXV Fund II includes existing investors from the inaugural fund, new investors including top-tier asset managers, endowments, foundations, family offices, and notable individual investors, and all of the PXV Fund II Partners. The PXV Fund strategy complements Perceptive Advisors’ Life Sciences Fund (hedge fund) and Credit Opportunities Funds as it will be solely focused on early-stage venture capital and expects to be the sole or predominant lead investor in Series A financings in the range of $20-40 million with capacity to participate in subsequent Series B financings. The primary goal of PXV Funds’ Series A and subsequent Series B financings will be advancing products and technologies from preclinical stages through early clinical development and the generation of proof-of-concept data in patients.

 

$148M: Series A for Super-Resolution Microscopy

Eikon Therapeutics has closed a $148 million Series A financing led by The Column Group with participation from Foresite Capital, Innovation Endeavors and Lux Capital. The company also announced the appointment of Roger M. Perlmutter, MD, PhD, as its new Chief Executive Officer. Eikon’s drug discovery platform evolved from super-resolution microscopy, a ground-breaking approach to elucidating the behavior of proteins in live cells. Super-resolution microscopy was first developed by Eric Betzig, PhD, and collaborators, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2014 for this work. Dr. Betzig, Xavier Darzacq, PhD, Luke Lavis, PhD, and Robert Tjian, PhD founded Eikon to industrialize this novel technology and to apply the tracking of protein dynamics to key applications across the drug discovery process.

 

$100M: Series A for AI for Gene Therapy 

Dyno Therapeutics has closed a $100 million Series A financing led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from a select syndicate of new investors including Casdin Capital, GV, Obvious Ventures and Lux Capital. Founding investors Polaris Partners, CRV and KdT Ventures all participated in the round. Funds from this financing will directly fund expansion of the company’s CapsidMap platform, which uses AI technology for the design of novel Adeno-Associated Virus (AAV) gene therapy vectors, broadening the functionality and enhancing the therapeutic impact of gene therapies developed by Dyno’s biopharmaceutical partners. Proceeds from the financing will accelerate building Dyno’s CapsidMap platform to design improved vectors targeting liver, muscle, eye and central nervous system (CNS) disease, as well as growing into new areas of lung, heart and kidney disease. Dyno will also use the proceeds to support its multiple partnership efforts with leading gene therapy biopharmaceutical companies by growing its operations, intellectual property, business development and partner success teams. This expansion augments Dyno’s existing partnerships to develop AAV vectors for Novartis, Sarepta and Roche and builds capacity to work with many additional partners. The financing will enable Dyno to significantly increase its employee base across science, machine learning and business functions.

 

$83M: Series D for Storage, Infrastructure 

VAST Data has announced $83 million in Series D funding, led by Tiger Global Management, at a post-money valuation of $3.7 billion—a tripling of the company’s valuation since April 2020. The round features strong participation from NVIDIA and several other existing investors. The funds add to VAST’s Series B and Series C investments to create a balance sheet that is $230M strong, positioning VAST as the next great independent infrastructure company that is poised to disrupt and transform cloud and AI data centers globally. The valuation comes as VAST recently reported record-breaking results and rapid customer growth throughout its first two years of operation. VAST ended its second year at nearly $100M of annualized software run rate, having quadrupled its software business year over year, while also achieving cash flow positivity. These results will be catalyzed in 2021 and beyond by VAST’s new software consumption model called Gemini, which disaggregates the business of hardware and software and provides customers with additional commercial advantages to further the adoption of Universal Storage.

 

$82M: Series B for Automated Cell Therapy Manufacturing 

Cellares Corporation has secured $82 million in a Series B round, bringing total funding to date to $100 million. The round was led by new investor Decheng Capital and co-led by existing investor Eclipse Ventures. Skyviews Life Science joined as a new investor, with previous investor 8VC also participating. This latest funding will accelerate development of the Cell Shuttle, Cellares’ scalable factory-in-a-box. The Cell Shuttle is a modular and automated solution comprising hardware, software, robotics and consumables and it is capable of producing 10 patient doses simultaneously. It is the first and only platform to achieve an order of magnitude improvement in instrument throughput, which enables biopharmaceutical companies to meet commercial scale patient demand. The Cell Shuttle’s automated, high throughput capabilities also lower costs by up to 75%, shorten the time between apheresis and product delivery - known as vein-to-vein time - and accelerate time to market by as much as 1-2 years, thanks to a single-platform approach.

 

$82M: Series A Company Launch Targeting Transcription Factors

Flare Therapeutics announced its launch and Series A financing of $82 million. The Series A was led by Third Rock Ventures with significant support by Boxer Capital, Nextech Invest, Casdin Capital, Invus Financial Advisors and Eventide Asset Management. Flare is targeting transcription factors through ‘switch sites’—newly identified druggable regions that control predictable and profound changes in gene expression—as a fundamentally new way to discover novel small molecule medicines to treat the multitude of diseases driven by transcription factor dysregulation. Flare’s switch-site based drug discovery approach has resulted in an emerging pipeline of drug programs targeting transcription factor dysregulation and mutations that are known to be pivotal drivers of cancer. The Series A will support Flare’s further advancement of its lead program in precision oncology toward the clinic. In addition, the company will continue to build its unique engine and proprietary assays to discover small molecules that target transcription factors at switch sites.

 

$80M: Series C for Decentralized Trials 

Florence has announced the close of a $80 million Series C funding round led by Insight Partners, a global venture capital and private equity firm focused on investing in ScaleUp software companies. Existing investors Fulcrum Equity Partners, Bee Partners, and Flashpoint also joined this round. The investment will further Florence’s mission of connecting pharmaceutical companies and study sites, paving the way for more decentralized trials and more efficient drug development lifecycles. Florence streamlines operations for over 8,500 study sites in 34 countries by strengthening regulatory compliance, improving user adoption and providing seamless remote connectivity. The platform experienced rapid growth over the past 12 months, facilitating close to 3 million research actions during March 2021 alone.

 

$60M: Series C for Opioid Addiction

Groups Recover Together (Groups), a national leader in value-based care for opioid addiction treatment, today announced it has raised $60 million in Series C financing. Oak HC/FT led the round, joining existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners, Transformation Capital, RRE Ventures, Optum Ventures and Kaiser Permanente Ventures. The latest financing will support the expansion of Groups’ treatment model from locations in 12 states to at least 17 states by the end of 2021. Additionally, after transitioning to serving their members exclusively through virtual care during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company will further bolster its commitment to meeting members where they are by rolling out an enhanced digital experience that will complement its already well-established infrastructure of highly effective brick-and-mortar clinics with integrated telehealth. To help support this deep commitment to building treatment modalities that better serve individuals who want or need their care delivered virtually, Groups also announced it has named Amar Kendale, chief product officer at Teladoc Health, to its board of directors.

 

$60M: Series C for NGS Turnkey Diagnostics 

Clear Labs has secured $60 million in Series C funding. The financing was co-led by new investors Counterpoint Global (Morgan Stanley) and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., with significant participation by existing investors including Redmile Group, Menlo Ventures, Wing Ventures, GV, HBM Genomics, Khosla Ventures, Felicis Ventures, and Dafgard. The oversubscribed round of financing will help broaden availability of Clear Labs solutions to help public health organizations, reference labs, hospitals, and epidemiologists more easily identify and trace all strains of pathogens. With its rapid WGS workflow solution, Clear Dx Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS), Clear Labs determines the complete RNA sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 genome in less than 24-hours and as a result, Clear Dx WGS can more easily determine the nature of virus transmission by differentiating viral strains, and monitoring mutations, which can lead to variants. The Clear Dx SARS-CoV-2 Diagnostic Assay (EUA-approved) allows labs to simultaneously perform diagnostic screening and genomic surveillance for the same price as a traditional PCR screening test.

 

$43M: Series A for Gene Interactions and Biological Networks 

Engine Biosciences has announced the successful completion of an oversubscribed $43 million Series A funding round. Engine identifies errors in the complex genetic codes of diseases, fixing them with precise therapeutic solutions. This round was led by Polaris Partners and also included new investors Invus and one of the world’s premier institutional investors, based in Singapore. Existing investors also participated in the Series A, which included 6 Dimensions Capital, WuXi AppTec, DHVC, EDBI, Baidu Ventures, Vectr Ventures, Goodman Capital, WI Harper, and Nest.Bio. Amy Schulman, Managing Partner at Polaris Partners, has joined the Engine Biosciences Board of Directors. Engine has now raised $53 million to date, including $10 million in a 2018 seed round. Located in Singapore and Silicon Valley, Engine’s technologies enable researchers and drug developers to uncover the gene interactions and biological networks underlying diseases orders-of-magnitude faster and more cost-effectively than conventional methods. Engine has already been progressing its novel biology findings into drug discovery programs and proprietary small molecule inhibitors. It will utilize the new funds to expand its portfolio of precision oncology therapeutics, prepare for its first clinical programs, and scale its proprietary technology platform.

 

$40M: Series A for Gene Monoclonal Antibodies

Gennao Bio, a privately held genetic medicines company developing first-in-class, targeted nucleic acid therapeutics, announced the closing of a $40 million Series A financing. The financing was co-led by OrbiMed and Logos Capital, with participation by Surveyor Capital (a Citadel company). Proceeds from the financing will be used to support the advancement of its proprietary, first-in-class gene monoclonal antibody platform (GMAB), exclusively licensed from Yale University, and the development of targeted nucleic acid therapeutic product candidates for the treatment of oncology and rare monogenic skeletal muscle diseases. Gennao Bio was co-founded in 2020 by Peter Glazer, M.D., Ph.D., Elias Quijano, M. Phil., Stephen Squinto, Ph.D. and Bruce Turner, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Squinto will serve as the Company’s newly appointed chief executive officer and chair of the board, effective immediately. As part of the financing, Chau Q. Khuong, a partner on the private equity team at OrbiMed, has been appointed to Gennao Bio’s board of directors.

 

$30M: Securities Purchase Agreement for Rare Disease Portfolio 

Q BioMed has signed a securities purchase agreement with Aedesius Holdings Ltd (AedesiusOne), a privately-owned United Kingdom-based healthcare and technology aggregator. The agreement gives AedesiusOne the opportunity to buy approximately 43% of the outstanding QBIO shares for an aggregate of $30,000,000. The Transaction is structured as an initial investment of $5,000,000 with an additional $15,000,000 by September 30, 2021 with 50% warrant coverage allowing an additional $10,000,000 investment within 120 days. The Unit Price is set at $1.25 per share, a 31% premium to yesterday's closing price. The investor is expected to ultimately take a seat on the Board. The post-money Company valuation after the initial closings will be approximately $58M using the purchase price of $1.25, a market cap valuation and net equity level required for listing on a national exchange. Assuming exercise of the warrants and using the same valuation, the market cap will be approximately $70 million. The company plans to deploy a contract sales force for Strontium89 in commercial and federal settings immediately and focus on advancing our rare disease portfolio in non-verbal autism and liver cancer.

 

$25M: Expanded Series A for Noninvasive Prenatal Testing 

Juno Diagnostics has closed an expanded Series A financing round of $25 million led by the Perceptive Xontogeny Venture (PXV) Fund. The capital will be used to support clinical validation studies, product development, and commercial launch of JunoDx’s product offerings for noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT). JunoDx’s NIPT solution simplifies sample collection and improves access to high quality genetic testing results without the high cost, long lead times, and phlebotomy requirements of traditional NIPT.

 

$25M: Series A for Infectious Disease Diagnostics

Torus Biosystems has announced the completion of a $25 million Series A financing. The round was led by Northpond Ventures, with participation from prior investors including David Walt, PhD, a professor at Harvard Medical School and Torus Bio cofounder and board observer. Adam Wieschhaus, PhD, CFA, director at Northpond Ventures, will also join the Torus board. Funding proceeds will be used to accelerate commercialization of a first-in-class syndromic testing solution designed for point-of-care use in ambulatory care settings. The Torus Bio syndromic testing approach shifts the paradigm for how and where infectious diseases are diagnosed and treated. Instead of the traditional approach of ordering a series of tests that can only target one or two pathogens, clinicians may now use a single test developed by Torus Bio to rapidly and simultaneously identify a large number of pathogens with much greater sensitivity and specificity than routine testing, facilitating precision diagnostics during a patient visit.

 

$21M: Data Sharing for Computational Research

Code Ocean has raised a total of $21 million in funding, including a $15M Series A round of funding led by Battery Ventures, with investment from Digitalis Ventures, EBSCO, Vaal Partners and other institutional and individual investors. With this funding, Code Ocean will accelerate development of its leading environment, which empowers researchers to continuously organize, execute, and share research end-to-end, thereby increasing efficiency and reproducibility. Until now, researchers have struggled to close their technology gaps in order to keep pace with a growing amount of data. They often find themselves wasting precious time with rote DevOps tasks and operating in silos, unable to effectively collaborate on their research with others in a secure fashion. One of the key differentiators of Code Ocean’s approach is its Compute Capsule, which creates a software package comprising the essential triplet of any computational research work today: code, data and a Docker-ized container that enables researchers to reproduce, reuse, and collaborate. Capsules, datasets and results become assets and are managed in a secure searchable repository. Code Ocean’s cloud-based environment manages access control and automates the use of any computing resource and storage. The Code Ocean platform is completely agnostic and incorporates RStudio, Jupyter, Terminal, MATLAB, Shiny, Git, and more.

 

$20M: Seed Round for Long Non-Coding RNAs 

HAYA Therapeutics, SA, has announced the successful closing of its CHF 18 million seed round. The financing was led by Broadview Ventures, with participation from Apollo Health Ventures, BERNINA BioInvest, 4See Ventures, Schroder Adveq and Viva BioInnovator. Founded and led by a team of experts in lncRNA biology and fibrotic disease, HAYA will use the funds from the financing to advance the discovery and development of innovative organ and cell-selective therapeutics that target lncRNAs to treat and potentially reverse fibrosis and other serious medical conditions related to aging. The company’s proprietary DiscoverHAYA drug discovery engine enables HAYA to generate a pipeline of lncRNA targeting anti-fibrotics for many tissues, including lung, kidney, liver and the tumor microenvironment. HAYA’s lead therapeutic candidate is an antisense oligonucleotide targeting the lncRNA Wisper, a cardiac tissue-enriched driver of fibrosis in the heart.

 

$15M: Series A for Clinical Trial Software for Virtual Research 

Curebase has announced $15M in Series A funding to continue developing its decentralized clinical trial software platform and virtual research site capabilities, powering research where any patient, anywhere, can be part of clinical trials at home and with their own doctor. The financing was led by GGV Capital with participation from Xfund, Bold Capital, and several other institutional funds, and brings the total raised to $19M. Jeff Richards, managing partner, GGV Capital will join the board of directors. The Curebase platform enables first-of-their kind study designs, in which patients participate both at home and in real-world settings, with best-in-class software experiences for patients, their doctors, and for telemedicine and mobile healthcare providers.

 

$4M: Series A for AI for Gastrointestinal Disease 

Docbot announced today the closing of a Series A round. In conjunction with the financing, the company has appointed Andrew J. Ritter as CEO after he led the sale of Ritter Pharmaceuticals in 2020. Docbot’s founding CEO, Andrew Ninh, continues as Chief Strategic Officer and will lead business development, strategic partnerships and innovation. The company closed a $4M Series A led by Khosla Ventures, with participation by Bold Capital Partners, Collaborative Fund and Boutique Venture Partners, bringing the total amount raised to $8.5 million since inception. Docbot’s investigational device, UltivisionAI, uses artificial intelligence for automated GI disease detection. The new capital will be used to advance clinical trials and seek FDA clearance.

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