Life Sciences Insight

OrbiMed, Lilly Asia Ventures chip into ADARx’s $75M round to take RNA tech into the clinic

OrbiMed Advisors and Lilly Asia Ventures are two key players pouring money into RNA-targeting technology via ADARx Pharmaceuticals’ $75 million series B round.

The funding will take the San Diego-based biotech’s growing pipeline of RNA-targeting therapeutics into the clinic, ADARx said in a statement on Wednesday.

OrbiMed led the round alongside SR One Capital, with Sirona Capital and Lilly Asia Ventures also chipping in.

ADARx is developing an RNA-targeting platform, which includes oligonucleotides to inhibit, degrade and edit RNA. The company has nine programs in the works across genetic, cardiometabolic and central nervous system diseases. It is developing its first editing program for the treatment of alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, or AATD, a rare genetic disorder that can lead to lung and liver disease.

The cohort leading ADARx is made up of pharma veterans like President and CEO Zhen Li and Vice President of Discovery Biology Tim Young, who worked on cystic fibrosis programs at Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Li co-founded ADARx after serving as a senior vice president at Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals where she led the discovery and nonclinical development of Arrowhead’s RNAi delivery platform and other product candidates.

Interest in RNA editing has ticked up in recent years, with Big Pharmas and venture capitalists alike investing in the field. Unlike gene-editing approaches that modify DNA, companies like ADARx are modifying the molecules that carry instructions from the DNA to produce proteins. This method allows companies to address the defective or toxic proteins that result from disease-causing mutations without permanently editing a person’s DNA.

Earlier this week, Eli Lilly partnered with ProQR to work on up to five targets using its RNA platform in a deal worth $50 million upfront but $1.25 billion in biobucks down the road. And just last month, Roche teamed up with Shape Therapeutics on treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and rare disease. The duo didn’t reveal financial details, saying only that the deal, including upfront and milestone payments, could total $3 billion.

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