2021-08-30| Funding

Laronde Bags $440 M in Series B to Advance Novel Medicines Using endless RNA Technology

by Rajaneesh K. Gopinath
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(Photo: Diego Miralles, CEO of Laronde and CEO-Partner at Flagship Pioneering)

In May, Flagship Pioneering, the notable VC firm and investor of Moderna, launched a new company called Laronde specializing in circular RNA technology. Called endless RNA™ (eRNA), these engineered versions of naturally occurring long non-coding RNAs were dubbed as a new class of medicines.

Just three months into its launch, the Cambridge, MA-based startup has snagged $440 Million in Series B financing. Besides participation from Flagship, the financing also included funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., Invus, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments), Fidelity Management & Research Company, funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, and Federated Hermes Kaufmann Funds, among others.

“The therapeutic possibilities enabled by eRNA are vast with the potential to greatly improve global human health. Having assembled such a knowledgeable and committed group of investors gives us the ability to not only advance this powerful technology platform but also build a transformative company to support our bold vision,” said Diego Miralles, M.D., CEO of Laronde and CEO-Partner at Flagship Pioneering.

Related Article: New Era in Precision Medicine? Introduction & Overview of RNA Editing


The Potential of Circular RNAs

Circular RNAs are non-coding RNAs that lack free 3′ and 5′ ends and naturally exist as closed-loop RNAs. In addition, they are more stable as they are not deemed immunogenic by the innate immune system or degraded by exonucleases. Due to these benefits, companies like Laronde are looking to employ them for developing new medicines.

The eRNA technology was invented at Flagship Labs by a team led by Avak Kahvejian, Ph.D., Co-Founder and Board Member of Laronde, and General Partner, Flagship Pioneering. The naturally found eRNAs are not translated into proteins. Therefore, they were optimized to carry an internal ribosome entry site and were progressively demonstrated to generate prolonged protein expression in vitro and in vivo and can be tuned as and when needed.

“Over the past few years, we have seen how programmable platforms like translatable mRNA can rapidly bring forward new medicines,” said Avak Kahvejian. “eRNA solves many of the limitations of other drug modalities and unlocks new opportunities for creating first- and best-in-class therapeutics. Since launch, we continue to advance the science of eRNA and have been able to precisely demonstrate a controlled expression of secreted peptides, proteins, antibodies, and vaccine constructs in vivo through the use of an array of delivery options, including subcutaneous administration,”

Laronde plans to build a modular and scalable eRNA Gigabase Factory to bring to market close to 100 products and drug programs in the next 10 years. The latest funding will go a long way in scaling the company and the eRNA platform.

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