Alumis closes $259M series C in year's largest private biotech fundraise yet

Alumis has reeled in an eye-watering $259 million series C financing that will support a pipeline of oral therapies designed to tackle immune dysfunction and help launch a phase 3 psoriasis trial for lead asset ESK-001.

It marks the biggest haul for a private biotech so far in 2024, according to Fierce Biotech’s Fundraising Tracker. The series C even tops Alumis’ own $200 million series B in 2022, which followed a $70 million series A in 2021, when the company went by the name Esker Therapeutics.    

“We were very fortunate that, in this kind of environment, we could raise a significant amount of money,” Alumis President and CEO Martin Babler told Fierce Biotech, adding that the fundraise speaks to investors’ confidence in the biotech’s team, assets, strategy and technology.

“It's still a challenging environment out there for everybody,” Babler said. “But I think that we're fortunate that we are actually more advanced with our molecule. That has helped—companies that have proof-of-concept and are more advanced are probably having it a little bit easier to raise money today.”

Incubated within Foresite Labs, the upsized financing round was co-led by Foresite Capital along with Samsara BioCapital and venBio Partners. Lilly Asia Ventures, a 2011 Eli Lilly spinout, was among the new investors who joined for the series C. 

The California-based biotech is going to use the new cash to start pivotal phase 3 trials for ESK-001, an allosteric tyrosine kinase 2 (TYK2) inhibitor, in moderate to severe plaque psoriasis in the second half of this year.

Alumis plans to share efficacy and safety data from a phase 2 study evaluating ESK-001, dubbed STRIDE, on March 9 at the American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting. The biotech is also hosting a virtual investor event the same day to review the psoriasis data presented.

While Babler couldn’t disclose information on the late-breaker presentation yet, “it's a fair assumption that we had a positive trial.” 

When asked how ESK-001 might compare to rivals already on the market like Bristol Myers Squibb’s Sotyktu, an oral TYK2 inhibitor approved to treat moderate to severe plaque psoriasis, Babler highlighted ESK-001’s pharmacological profile.  

“This is an extremely well-behaved molecule,” the CEO said. “And we really believe that good pharmacology ultimately translates into good clinical outcome if the target is the right target.”

Part of the $259 million will support two ongoing midstage trials evaluating ESK-001 in systemic lupus erythematosus, the most common form of lupus, and non-infectious uveitis, a leading driver of blindness. The series C financing will also help advance Alumis’ precision data analytics and multi-platform approach to investigate ESK-001’s potential in other undisclosed autoimmune indications.

Lastly, the company is developing another allosteric TYK2 inhibitor, dubbed A-005, as a possible treatment for neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases. The potential first-in-class brain-penetrant TYK2 inhibitor is slated to enter the clinic in the first half of 2024.

“There's not many opportunities in the autoimmune field today where you have small molecules that really can be advanced in a way that are as broad and as exciting as TYK2 inhibition, because we're going after two different pathways with the IL-23 pathway and the interferon pathway,” the CEO said.

The broad potential of Alumis’ assets is another factor that played into the company’s successful fundraising, he pointed out. The biotech is currently running discovery work for undisclosed immune-mediated diseases and targets identified by its data analytics platform.

Looking ahead, Babler said Alumis is fortunate to have many opportunities for raising capital and that an IPO is one of many options to consider for the future.  

Editor's note: This article was updated at 5 p.m. ET to clarify Lilly Asia Ventures' association with Eli Lilly, and to differentiate between Foresite Labs and Foresite Capital.