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Maryland Biopharma Raises $105 Million in Series D to Fund Development of RNAi Therapeutics
By T. Chakraborty, Ph.D.
Sirnaomics, Inc., a leading biopharmaceutical company based in Maryland, focuses on developing novel therapeutics using RNAi technology. On October 22nd, the company announced that it had received funding worth $105 million Series D funding to advance its technology.
“We are very excited to get the D round of financing closed in a timely manner. The fact that the D round was oversubscribed is further validation that RNAi therapeutics are attracting a great deal of interest from the investment community and is fuelled by innovative targeted technologies and very impressive clinical results”, said Dr. Patrick Lu, CEO of the company.
“We are thrilled to add a well-regarded syndicate of investors to the Series D financing. This type of investor base will not only strengthen our financial foundation but also brings tremendous experience and expertise to Sirnaomics as it enters the next phase of growth and prepares for an initial public offering in the near future,” he added.
Multiple investment firms, including Rotating Boulder Fund, Sunshine Riverhead Capital, Sangel Capital, and Longmen Capital, came together to make this investment. “There is no doubt that in the next decade, the field of oligonucleotide drugs will usher in an explosive period due to the unique advantages of druggability,” said Mr. Shenghao Shi, Managing Partner of Sunshine Riverhead Capital.
“After more than a decade of cultivation and unremitting efforts, the team of Sirnaomics has accumulated rich experience and has developed several original and advanced drug delivery systems, which we believe will make it an essential player in cancer and fibrosis fields. As a long-term capital investor with an insurance background, we are honored to be able to reach cooperation with them and will support the development of the enterprise for a long time in the future.”
The balance in the production of different proteins is crucial for promoting healthy cells. Any uncontrolled changes in protein levels that the cell cannot compensate for may lead to diseases. Hence, controlling the number of altered proteins in disease conditions has been used as disease therapy for a long time. RNA interference (RNAi) is one such technique where cells can inhibit the translation of a gene, reducing protein levels.
An injected siRNA silences a gene of interest by binding to its complementarity and inhibiting the translational machinery. Before the advent of CRISPR, RNAi had widespread use in various therapies. Even today, RNAi is still being used as a therapeutic strategy to silence genes implicated in diseases like cancer, viral infections, among others. In cancer, oncogenes get activated, leading to uncontrolled cell growth, and cancer cells evade the host immune system by altering several immune checkpoint protein levels. RNAi can be used to silence both oncogenes as well as immune checkpoint proteins to regulate cancer growth.
Sirnaomics has used this technology to develop therapeutics against various types of cancer. The funds received will help advance their candidate drugs STP705 and STP707, which can silence two proteins, tumor growth factor β (TGF-β) and COX-2, linked to multiple types of cancer. Further, Sirnaomics is also venturing into using these dual inhibitors in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors. The company has also invested in a platform to develop siRNA-chemotherapy conjugates, which have shown promising pre-clinical data and may be used as potential therapeutics for various cancer types. Besides cancer, Sirnaomics is also investing in metabolic disorders.
Even though this investment is great news for the development of new therapeutics, it is to be kept in mind that with the advent of CRISPR technology and the non-specific effect of siRNA, we may see the industries moving more towards CRISPR-based therapies.
Editor: Rajaneesh K. Gopinath, Ph.D.
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