BioNTech raises $270M A round to fuel mRNA, CAR-T R&D

BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin, Ph.D. (BioNTech)

BioNTech has raised $270 million (€224 million). The series A round positions the German biotech to mount a multifront attack on cancer, spearheaded by mRNA therapies and supported by a clutch of other modalities including CAR-T cells.

Mainz, Germany-based BioNTech has established its credentials over the past decade with a string of big-ticket deals. Now, with multiple candidates in early-phase development, BioNTech is ready to take its in-house activities to the next level—and it has found investors willing to support its cash-hungry business plan.

Redmile Group led the series A round with the support of Janus Henderson Investors, Invus, Fidelity Management & Research Company and several European family offices, including the Struengmann Family Office that played a big role in bankrolling BioNTech prior to the series A.

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The syndicate has come together to fund the advance of a multimodality pipeline. BioNTech made its name through its work to identify cancer mutations with the most therapeutic potential and go after them with mRNA treatments of varying degrees of personalization. But it has since pushed out beyond mRNA by setting up cell therapy, antibody and small molecule R&D programs. This has given BioNTech an array of ways to attack cancer, particularly when the combinations enabled by its partnerships are factored in.

BioNTech has reached this point without disclosing the sort of headline-grabbing financing pulled off by mRNA rivals such as CureVac and Moderna. But the biotech has nonetheless pulled in a lot of cash to date, with Reuters reporting the total following the series A is nearing $1 billion.

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Some of that cash has come from Thomas and Andreas Struengmann, the billionaire majority owners of BioNTech who made some of their money by selling generic drugs business Hexal to Novartis more than a decade ago. The rest has come from partnership fees, notably the $310 million in upfront and near-term milestones Genentech offered to team up with BioNTech.

BioNTech’s broadening of its investor base beyond the Struengmanns is a stepping stone to it opening up to public backers. The IPO is unlikely to happen this year but, barring a shocking development, it will happen.

“Inevitably, in the end we will IPO just because of the size and the capital demands required by individualized approaches to treatment. You have to invest enormously in manufacturing,” BioNTech COO Sean Marett told Reuters.

The breadth of BioNTech’s early-phase pipeline and size of the series A mean it has a chance to put together clinical data packages before wooing public investors.