Follow the Money: Patient Recruitment, Decentralized Trials, AI in Research
September 3, 2021 | HealthTech SPAC funding, platforms for patient recruitment and decentralized trials, multiple academic grants for dementia research, using AI to watch cells over time, and more.
$250M: IPO for SPAC
AfterNext HealthTech Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company focused on the intersection of healthcare and technology, announced the pricing of its initial public offering of 25,000,000 units at a price of $10.00 per unit. The units will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) and trade under the ticker symbol “AFTR.U” beginning August 12, 2021. AfterNext is a newly organized blank check company incorporated as a Cayman Islands exempted company for the purpose of effecting a merger, share exchange, asset acquisition, share purchase, reorganization or similar business combination with one or more businesses. AfterNext is led by industry veterans Halsey Wise and Anthony Colaluca. The Company’s operator-led team is specialized and purpose-built, with a proven track record of creating value across the technology and healthcare industries. The Company intends to focus on the industries that align with the background of its founders and board, with a particular emphasis placed on the HealthTech sector. AfterNext will look to partner with companies that are tackling the healthcare problems of tomorrow, specifically through the deployment of technology and innovation, in a way that can drive durable, generational and patient-centric change. AfterNext was formed in partnership with alternative asset firm TPG, one of the most experienced and active investors in healthcare and technology.
$220M: Series C to Shorten Clinical Trial Timelines
Reify Health has announced a $220 million Series C funding round led by Coatue Management, joined by ICONIQ Growth and Adams Street Partners, as well as existing investors Sierra Ventures and Battery Ventures. This latest funding, which brings the company’s valuation to $2.2 billion, underscores Reify Health’s success in dramatically shortening clinical trial timelines. Reify Health has built a new foundation for how clinical trials are run through its business entities, StudyTeam and Care Access. StudyTeam delivers the best-in-class technology platform for optimizing patient recruitment and enrollment and is used by top-20 global biopharma companies such as Amgen, AstraZeneca, and Eli Lilly and Company, and approximately 4,000 research sites across 65 countries. Care Access, having conducted the most advanced decentralized trials at scale, is the world’s leading decentralized research organization that brings clinical trial infrastructure directly to patients, healthcare providers, and communities.
$155M: Treatment for Malignant PEComas
Aadi Bioscience and Aerpio Pharmaceuticals have closed their merger and announced a $155 million Private Investment in Public Equity (PIPE) financing of its common stock. The PIPE Financing was led by Acuta Capital Partners and KVP Capital and included Avoro Capital Advisors; Avoro Ventures; Venrock Healthcare Capital Partners; BVF Partners, L.P.; Vivo Capital; Alta Bioequities, L.P.; Rock Springs Capital; RTW Investments, LP; Acorn Bioventures; and Serrado Capital as well as other undisclosed institutional investors. Proceeds from the PIPE financing are expected to be used for the commercialization of Aadi’s lead program for its nanoparticle albumin-bound mTOR inhibitor, FYARRO, in advanced malignant PEComa, a planned tumor-agnostic registrational trial in solid tumors harboring inactivating alterations in the mTOR pathway genes TSC1 and TSC2 expected to be initiated by the end of 2021, and ongoing studies and general operating expenses.
$150M: ML Software and Cloud Insights Platform
Atheneum has secured a £110 million growth capital funding round led by Guidepost Growth Equity. Existing investors also participated in the round including Crosslantic Capital Management, Michael Brehm, Vogel Communications Group, and the founding management team of Atheneum. Through its proprietary machine learning software and cloud-based insights platform “Athena One”, Atheneum delivers qualitative (expert consultations and placements) and quantitative (surveys and data products) research solutions to businesses around the world. This on-demand access to global intelligence helps users to quickly understand cutting edge industry trends and the critical in-depth market information needed to drive business expansion, operational excellence and product innovation. Atheneum has built significant global capabilities and solutions across a variety of industries with a particular strength in life sciences and technology.
$112.5M: Next Gen Oligonucleotide Therapies
PepGen has announced the closing of an oversubscribed $112.5 million crossover financing, led by a strong syndicate of investors. The funding round included existing investors RA Capital Management, Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI) and CureDuchenne Ventures, and added new investors Viking Global Investors, Deerfield Management Company, Qatar Investment Authority, Adage Capital Management, Samsara Biocapital, Laurion Capital Management, Tudor Investment Corporation, Gray’s Creek Capital Partners and other leading investors. Proceeds from the financing will be used to advance PepGen’s lead programs: EDO51 for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), entering Phase 1 clinical trials in 2022, and EDODM1 for myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1), entering clinical trials in early 2023, as well as a large pipeline of additional oligonucleotide candidates. The funds will also enable expansion of PepGen’s team in Boston.
$59M: Series C for Nerve Repair, Cardiovascular Sealants
TISSIUM, a privately-owned medtech company developing biomorphic programmable polymers for tissue reconstruction, announced it has closed a Series C round of financing, raising €50 million from new and existing international investors. Cathay Health, affiliated to global investment firm Cathay Capital, led new investors and joined other institutional and individual backers while existing shareholders were led by Sofinnova Partners, a historical cornerstone investor, reinforcing TISSIUM shareholding structure. As part of the financing, Cathay Health Co-founder and Managing Partner Hongjie Hu will be joining TISSIUM’s board of directors. This latest funding round coincides with a period of rapid growth at TISSIUM that is expected to continue as it scales its operations and adds to its executive team. The financing will allow TISSIUM to continue to execute on its development plan, funding the company up to the commercialization of its leading nerve repair, hernia repair and cardiovascular sealant products. As TISSIUM adds to its platform with products in new therapeutic areas, it will continue to pursue rapid international expansion, leveraging in-house production and state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, as well as entering partnerships in certain verticals.
$50M: Series B for Phenylketonuria Treatment
Jnana Therapeutics, a biotechnology company utilizing its next generation chemoproteomic platform to target SLC transporters and other well-validated but hard-to-drug targets, has announced the closing of a $50 million Series B financing. The financing was led by RA Capital Management, and included all existing investors, including Polaris Partners, Versant Ventures, Avalon Ventures, AbbVie Ventures and Pfizer Ventures. Proceeds from this financing will enable Jnana to progress its lead program for the treatment of phenylketonuria (PKU) into clinical development, while advancing a pipeline of additional programs and continuing to invest in its innovative and validated RAPID platform for the discovery of small molecule therapeutics for hard-to-drug targets.
$22.6M: Series A for Cell-Free Enzymes
Debut Biotech has announced its $22.6M Series A financing, led by Material Impact. Participating investors include Cultivian Sandbox Ventures, Fine Structure Ventures, ACVC Ventures, Humboldt Fund, Cantos Ventures, as well as existing investors including KdT Ventures. Debut Biotech will use the funds to commercialize ingredients developed from its proprietary cell-free biomanufacturing platform, which has applications across various industries from food and wellness products to cosmetics, colors, therapeutics and other industrial applications. In order to scale the commercialization of its technology and expand into new products, Debut Biotech will expand its footprint to a 26,000 square foot facility in San Diego and triple the size of its team across locations in San Diego and Atlanta. These facility investments will enable Debut Biotech’s manufacturing to be done entirely in the United States.
$17.5M: Series B for Metabolic Fitness Platform
Ultrahuman has raised $17.5 million. Ultrahuman is committed to making metabolic fitness accessible to millions of people suffering from a metabolic health disorder globally. The funds raised will be used for geographical expansion and to improve their biomarker technology. The series B funding came from Alpha Wave Incubation (AWI), which is backed by DisruptAD and managed by Falcon Edge, Steadview Capital, Nexus Venture Partners, Blume Ventures and Utsav Somani’s iSeed fund. Marquee founders and angel investors also participated including Tiger Global’s Scott Schleifer, Sandeep Singhal, Kunal Shah, Sujeet Kumar, Deepinder Goyal, Gunjan Patidar, Gaurav Munjal, Revant Bhate, Mohit Gupta, Vikram Dhingra and Roman Saini. The Ultrahuman Cyborg wearable helps people optimize their exercise and nutrition based on glucose biomarkers. The Ultrahuman wearable launched in June 2021 has already amassed thousands of users in the waitlist with users raving about their experience on Twitter after using the wearable.
$15.2M: National Institutes of Aging Grant for Alzheimer’s Research
The National Institute of Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded Wake Forest School of Medicine $15.2 million over five years in support of its research center for Alzheimer’s disease. Established in 2016 with a multimillion-dollar NIA grant, the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) at Wake Forest School of Medicine is one of only 31 NIA-funded research centers in the country working to translate research advances into improved diagnosis and care for people with the disease, as well as working to find a treatment or ways to prevent Alzheimer's and other types of dementia.
$12M: Series B for Wet AMD Therapies
Eyevensys has raised $12M in a Series B Plus funding round. Korea Investment Partners is leading the Series B Plus financing and existing investors will also join the round. The financing will support Eyevensys’ accelerated development of its EYS809 program for the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a chronic eye disorder that causes blurred vision or a blind spot in the eye. The condition accounts for approximately 90% of all AMD-related blindness. Additionally, the company will advance its EYS611 program targeting geographic atrophy (GA) and retinitis pigmentosa. The Eyevensys technology is a non-viral gene therapy ocular drug delivery platform that uses an Electrotransfection System to deliver DNA plasmids encoding therapeutic proteins into the ciliary muscle to sustainably treat major eye diseases. This turns the eye into a biofactory, allowing the ciliary muscle to express and secrete the therapeutic protein to the back of the eye at therapeutic levels for a duration of greater than 6 months.
$5.9M: Seed Round for Hypoglycemia, Hypocalcemia
Encellin, a personalized regenerative medicine biotech company developing novel cell-based approaches to deliver sustained therapies with a single implant, today announced the closing of a $5.9M Seed financing round. The round was co-led by Khosla Ventures and SV Latam Capital, with participation from Sandhill Angels and Y Combinator. The new funding will be used to advance development of its technology platform and programs in hypoglycemia and hypocalcemia. The financing will also be used to build out the laboratory and also expand the team. Encellin will also expand into areas with readily available renewable cell sources and engineered cells, to encapsulate any cellular cargo in products from its proprietary platform. Encellin builds implantable “cell pouches” to treat chronic diseases. The company’s technology combines ad novel cell encapsulation technology with functional cell therapies to treat chronic diseases, starting with endocrine disorders. Encellin’s lead programs focus on hypoglycemia, the highest unmet medical need in Type 1 diabetes and hypocalcemia, which affects one-third of dialysis patients. The platform is focused on leveraging the power of cells to deliver years of therapies with a single implant.
$5.2M: Arizona-Based Hospital Grant for Post-Surgery Bowel Function
Palisade Bio has announced a new private investment of approximately $5.2 million from the Yuma Regional Medical Center (YRMC), an Arizona‐based, not‐for‐profit hospital providing high‐quality, patient‐centered care. The funds will be used to advance the clinical development of Palisade's lead oral liquid drug candidate LB1148, which is being developed to accelerate the return of bowel function after surgery and to reduce post‐surgical adhesions. Under the terms of the agreement, YRMC purchased 1,509,896 unregistered common shares at a purchase price of $3.45 per share. In addition, YRMC received a five‐year warrant to purchase an additional 377,474 common shares at $3.45 per share. The Company is required to register the common shares and the shares underlying the warrants within 60 days.
$5M: Cannabinoids for Pediatric Ulcerative Colitis
Vitality Biopharma has entered into a definitive agreement with an institutional investor for a $5,000,000 equity line financing. Under the terms of the equity line financing, once the registration statement covering these shares is declared effective, the institutional investor is obligated to purchase the number of shares of the Company’s common stock set forth in each purchase notice delivered by the Company until December 31, 2022 (up to $250,000 per purchase notice) at a price equal to 85% of the share’s lowest daily volume weighted average price over the five-day period prior to the pricing date, up to an aggregate value of $5,000,000. For each share sold to the institutional investor, the Company also will issue a warrant for another share exercisable at 115% of the lowest daily volume weighted average price of the five-day period prior to the pricing date. The Company anticipates using the proceeds from the offering to advance the Company’s leading prodrug candidate, VBX-100, through its pre-clinical studies and for general corporate purposes. VBX-100, a glycosylated cannabinoid developed using our proprietary enzymatic bioprocessing technologies, was recently granted Orphan Drug Designation by the FDA for the treatment of pediatric ulcerative colitis.
$1.9M: NIH Grant to Investigate Drug-Induced Dementia
Tabula Rasa HealthCare and Hesperos, pioneers of Human-on-a-Chip in vitro systems, have been awarded $1.9 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate drug-induced dementia and develop new models that will drive Alzheimer's research. Multi-drug intake can lead to adverse drug events (ADEs) and result in negative health outcomes like drug-induced dementia, including exacerbation of clinical manifestations of Alzheimer's disease (a cause of dementia). Medications with certain properties are known to cause ADEs. When these ADEs are treated with additional medications, patients' risk for multi-drug interactions increases. The research will leverage TRHC's MedWise technology, which uses advanced proprietary algorithms to help quantify a patient's risk for ADEs and assess the impact of certain drug properties as well as multi-drug interactions. The results will help address which medications and medication regimens correlate with the greatest risk of drug-induced dementia, relying on patient data and now benefiting from Hesperos AD models to better inform the MedWise technology to enable better predictive capabilities for patients.
$1.3M: NIH Grant to Study Causal Connections in the Brain
Sergey Plis, associate professor of computer science at Georgia State University, and his collaborators have received $1.3 million from the Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience Program, jointly run by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to study causal connections in the brain. The four-year award, funded through the NIH, will support interdisciplinary research to build causal learning models that can produce a blueprint of how brain regions interact.
$1.3M: NIH BRAIN Initiative Grant
Kitware, known for solving complex medical and biomedical problems using open source technology, has been awarded a three-year, $1.3M research grant by the National Institute of Health (NIH) as part of its BRAIN Initiative. Through this research grant, Kitware’s team will create a tool to identify spatial locality of brain structures, the presence of different neural cell types, and electrical activation patterns. This work will be based on Kitware’s open source Insight Toolkit (ITK), a standard library for computational image analysis. The team will use deep learning methods to extend ITK’s architecture and accommodate these large datasets.
$125,000: AI Evaluation of Cells Over Time
CellChorus has announced that Y Combinator has invested $125,000 and accepted CellChorus into its Summer 2021 batch. Y Combinator, which is based in Silicon Valley, now funds more seed stage biotech companies than any other investor. CellChorus “watches” thousands of videos of individual cell-cell interactions so scientists can develop and deliver better cell therapies, antibody therapeutics, and vaccines. CellChorus's approach is important for two reasons. First, cells must move and interact to fight disease—so we need to evaluate cell movement over time. Second, cells are diverse—so we need to evaluate thousands of cells individually, not in bulk.