ProNAi Therapeutics Inc. has collected $59.5 million after clinical studies showed that its lead drug could help non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients who are running out of options.
ProNAi, based in Plymouth, Mich., develops nucleic acid therapies for cancer and other diseases. Its lead product, PNT2258, targets the BCL-2 gene to inhibit cancer cell proliferation and promote tumor cell death. Other companies working in this area include Genentech Inc ., whose pipeline includes a small-molecule BCL-2 protein inhibitor for chronic lymphocytic leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In December, ProNAi said PNT2258 showed promise in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients in a Phase II clinical trial. Eighty-two percent of patients had tumor shrinkage when receiving single-agent therapy with the drug, ProNAi said.
This Series D round will enable ProNAi to test PNT2258 in multiple Phase II studies. It will study the agent in relapsed or treatment-refractory non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, including patients with diffuse B-cell lymphoma, Richter’s transformation and follicular lymphoma, the company said.
New investor Vivo Capital led the round and was joined by new investors Adams Street Partners, Caxton Alternative Management, Frazier Healthcare, Hopen Life Science Ventures, Janus Capital Management ,OrbiMed Advisors , RA Capital Management and Sectoral Asset Management.
Return investors Amherst Fund, Apjohn Ventures Fund, Capital Midwest Fund and Grand Angels also participated. Valuation wasn’t disclosed.
Companies developing nucleic acid drugs face the difficulty of delivering their product into cells. ProNAi’s solution has been to incorporate PNT2258 into a lipid delivery system. It licensed access to this technology from Marina Biotech Inc. In addition to PNT2258, ProNAi’s pipeline includes DNA-interference drugs for other cancer and non-cancer targets, such as inflammation and hepatitis B.
Other developers of gene-silencing therapies include Dicerna Pharmaceuticals Inc. , which develops RNA interference drugs. Its products bring about the destruction of the messenger RNAs of disease genes. Dicerna, which went public in January, has its own drug-delivery system, a lipid nanoparticle technology called EnCore. Dicerna’s pipeline includes a treatment with potential in hepatocellular carcinoma and other solid tumors.
Vivo Capital Managing Partner Albert Cha , Peter Thompson , private equity partner of OrbiMed Advisors , and James Topper, general partner of Frazier Healthcare, have joined ProNAi’s board.