Pfizer knows a thing or two about mRNA with its BioNTech-partnered COVID-19 vaccine. So, the Big Pharma is doubling down in the hot field by investing in ReCode Therapeutics’ $80 million series B.
Pfizer Ventures and EcoR1 Capital spearheaded the round, which matched the size of a March 2020 series A for the mRNA biotech. Sanofi’s venture shop also joined the round alongside nearly a dozen other backers.
The proceeds will bankroll phase 1 studies of ReCode’s lead programs in cystic fibrosis and another lung disease, called primary ciliary dyskinesia. PCD is similar to CF in that a group of genetic mutations cause patients to lack a certain protein that makes up cilia—a part integral to your airways.
CEO David Lockhart, Ph.D., told Fierce Biotech at the time of the series A that ReCode would be in the clinic for both programs by late 2021.
The California and Texas biotech made strides in getting into human studies by hiring Nicholas France, M.D., as senior vice president of clinical development last month. France helmed the head of clinical research perch at Escape Bio prior to that.
ReCode’s CF program uses nonviral lipid nanoparticles to deliver mRNA that aim to restore function of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator. So-called “nonsense mutations” in that gene cause mucus to build up in the lungs and spark inflammation, respiratory failure and other complications. About 10% to 13% of CF patients have these mutations, ReCode said.
Arcturus Therapeutics is also working on an mRNA-based drug for CF. And Sanofi, which is now an investor in ReCode, has a potential mRNA treatment for cystic through its $3.2 billion acquisition of Translate Bio. That treatment, though, underwhelmed investors when a phase 1/2 trial found no pattern of improvements in lung function for patients with CF in March.
Aside from CF, the proceeds will also go toward earlier-stage programs across other lung, liver and extra-hepatic tissues, ReCode said. The biotech will beef up its in-house manufacturing with the new money, as well.
In conjunction with the round, ReCode added two members to its board: Pfizer’s executive director for worldwide business development, Rana Al-Hallaq, Ph.D., and EcoR1 founder Oleg Nodelman.
ReCode was born out of a lab at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and is the result of a merger with TranscripTx. Lockhart was CEO and president of TranscripTx since 2014 and chief scientific officer of Amicus for about eight years prior to that.