October 20, 2021

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VC Daily: Expansion Therapeutics Gets $80 Million for RNA-Targeted Drugs

Good day. Biotechnology startup Expansion Therapeutics Inc. has collected $80 million to hunt for oral medicines that make a significant impact on neurodegenerative diseases.

Conventionally, medications have targeted disease proteins. Boston-based Expansion and some other companies are now also developing drugs that target RNA involved in producing disease proteins.

Ionis Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s Tegsedi, for example, treats patients with nerve damage stemming from hereditary ATTR amyloidosis, a disease in which the body produces a mutant form of the TTR protein. Tegsedi, which is injected, targets RNA to reduce the production of TTR protein, according to Ionis.

Expansion is developing RNA-targeted small-molecule drugs for diseases with few treatment options. They include myotonic dystrophy type 1, a disease affecting muscle, cardiac and brain function; the motor disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; frontotemporal dementia, a severe form of dementia; and tauopathies, or brain disorders marked by an overabundance of certain forms of the protein tau.

By going upstream of proteins and targeting RNA, Expansion hopes to make a profound impact on these diseases, said Chief Executive Renato Skerlj. Expansion, which raised this Series B funding from Cormorant Asset Management, and others, plans to use the new capital to advance its platform and move its initial drugs toward clinical trials.

And now on to the news…

Top News

Blood storage technology. Hemanext Inc. has secured new venture-capital funding ahead of plans to seek U.S. regulatory authorization for a medical device designed to improve blood storage and help patients who depend heavily on donated blood.

Hemanext has collected $15 million in new funding and has now raised a total of more than $100 million.

Donated blood is used widely in medical care, including in the treatment of traumatic injuries and patients with blood disorders such as sickle cell disease. Hospitals’ need for blood is increasing as they catch up on surgeries following coronavirus pandemic-related delays.

Hemanext aims to improve the blood supply by increasing the quality of stored red blood cells. That could lead to benefits such as less-frequent blood transfusions for patients. The company plans to study its technology in various types of patients, including those with burns, sickle cell disease and blood cancers known as myelodysplastic syndromes.

“We’re always living in a state of concern about whether or not we’ll have the supply to meet the [needs] of every American.”

— Biree Andemariam, a professor of medicine at UConn Health, and a clinical adviser to Hemanext, referring to the nation’s supply of donated blood

Other VC News

Alternative-Milk Company Perfect Day Raises $350 Million

Perfect Day Inc. raised $350 million in a late-stage funding round, valuing the non-animal dairy startup at roughly $1.5 billion and setting the stage for an initial public offering, The Wall Street Journal reports. Singapore’s Temasek and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board led the Series D funding round for the California company, co-founders Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi told The Wall Street Journal. Other investors include Walt Disney Co. Executive Chairman Robert Iger. Since its founding in 2014, Perfect Day, which uses fermentation technology to produce animal-free dairy proteins and counts actor Leonardo DiCaprio as an adviser, has raised $750 million.

Industry News

Funds

Vensana Capital, a venture-capital and growth-equity firm focused on medical technology, closed its second fund at its hard cap of $325 million. Vensana Capital II LP will continue to back startups in the medical devices, diagnostics and data-science, life-science tools, digital health and tech-enabled services sectors. With offices in Minneapolis and Vienna, Va., Vensana Capital raised $225 million for its debut fund two years ago.

Hadean Ventures held the first closing of its second fund at EUR90 million ($104 million) to continue investing in pharma, biotech, medtech diagnostics and digital health startups, mostly in Europe. The new fund is supported by over 30 limited partners including OPF, Saminvest, Argentum and Investinor. Hadean Ventures has offices in Oslo and Stockholm.

People

BioAdvance, which makes early-stage life-science investments in the mid-Atlantic region, said Shahram Hejazi was appointed managing director and chief executive, replacing Barbara Schilberg, who is retiring after almost 20 years in that position. Before joining BioAdvance, Mr. Hejazi was president of Kodak’s life-science division (later known as Carestream Molecular Imaging), and CEO of Zargis Medical Corp.

Cleerly Inc., a heart disease-care provider, appointed Brandon Atkinson as chief operating officer and Nick Nieslanik as chief technology officer. Mr. Atkinson was most recently chief executive of 46 Summits Consulting. Mr. Nieslanik was vice president of engineering at Teladoc Health. Earlier this year, Cleerly raised a $43 million Series B round from investors including Vensana Capital, LRVHealth, New Leaf Venture Partners, DigiTx Partners and Cigna Ventures.

Healthcare automation platform Lumeon named Breht Feigh to the post of chief financial officer. He was most recently CFO of Press Ganey Associates. Lumeon is based in Boston and London, and is backed by investors including Optum Ventures, Endeavour Vision, LSP and Amadeus Capital Partners.

Exits

Kipu, a technology partner for mental health and addiction service providers, acquired Avea Solutions, whose software helps treatment centers streamline billing. Terms weren’t disclosed. TCV counts Miami-based Kipu in its portfolio.

New Money

Elligo Health Research Inc., an Austin, Texas-based startup that provides physician practices with technology and services to help them participate in clinical trials, completed a $135 million Series E round. Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital and Ally Bridge Group led the investment, which included participation from Norwest Venture Partners, Cerner, Hatteras Venture Partners, Noro-Moseley Partners, Piper Sandler Merchant Banking, Shumway Capital and Syneos Health. Along with the funding, Elligo Health Research acquired ClinEdge for an undisclosed amount. Melissa Daniels, managing director and general partner at Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital, joined Elligo’s board.

Wayspring, a Nashville, Tenn.-based substance use disorder-care provider formerly known as axialHealthcare, picked up a $75 million investment. Valtruis, a newly formed value-based care portfolio company of Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, led the round. Centene Corp., CareSource, HLM Venture Partners, Highmark Ventures, .406 Ventures, Blue Venture Fund and Oak HC/FT also participated in the funding.

Anji Pharma, a Cambridge, Mass.- and Shanghai-based biotech company, landed $70 million in Series B funding from CR Capital. The company’s clinical pipeline includes a provider of glucose management in patients with Type 2 diabetes and advanced chronic kidney disease, as well as a treatment for functional constipation.

Lifebit Biotech Ltd., a biomedical data provider with offices in London, San Francisco and Hong Kong, raised $60 million in Series B funding. Tiger Global Management led the round, which included participation from Eurazeo, Pentech Ventures and Beacon Capital.

Stellar Health, a New York-based startup whose technology enables primary-care providers to deliver real-time notifications and action-based incentives to patients, secured more than $60 million in Series B financing. General Atlantic led the round, which included additional support from Point72 Ventures, Primary Venture Partners and others.

MFine, an Indian digital health startup, nabbed $48 million in Series C funding. Moore Strategic Ventures and Beenext co-led the round, which included contributions from Stellaris Venture Partners, SBI Holdings, Heritas Capital, Prime Venture Partners and Alteria Capital.

Wider Circle, a Redwood City, Calif.-based startup that works with health plans to deliver hyper-local care programs that connect neighbors for better health, snagged a $38 million Series B round. Lead investor AmeriHealth Caritas was joined by Blue Venture Fund, Chicago Ventures and others in the new funding.

NovaSignal Corp., a Los Angeles-based startup specializing in the assessment and management of brain health, closed a $37 million Series C1 round led by Alpha Edison and Reimagined Ventures.

Kytopen Corp., a Cambridge, Mass.-based provider of a scalable technology for engineered cell therapies, collected $30 million in an oversubscribed Series A round. Northpond Ventures led the investment, which saw participation from the Engine, Horizon Ventures, Mass Ventures and others. Northpond’s Adam Wieschhaus and the Engine’s Theresa Tribble will join the board.

Vital, an Atlanta-based provider of software for hospital emergency departments, snagged $15 million in Series A funding. Transformation Capital led the round, which included participation from First Round Capital and Threshold Ventures.

Genetika+, a Jerusalem- and Boston-based startup applying personalized medicine to behavioral health, fetched a $10 million Series A round. GreyBird Ventures led the funding, which included support from Meron Capital, Jumpspeed Ventures and Sapir Venture Partners.

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Around the Web

Mass General Brigham won’t offer Biogen’s new Alzheimer’s drug. (Boston Globe)

Pharmaceutical CEOs have a new top concern: recruiting and keeping employees. (Endpoints News)

The tedious process of training computers to think about medicine. (STAT News)

(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires

September 30, 2021 10:39 ET (14:39 GMT)

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