Electra, one of 2 Star biotechs, snags $84M to apply brakes to 'immune system haywire'

Electra Therapeutics, a member of the Star Therapeutics constellation, is going to be reaching for some of the 7,000 rare diseases thanks to a new $84 million series B financing. 

The biotech, led by ex-True North Therapeutics executives, broke cover Wednesday with a monoclonal antibody in phase 1 trials in patients with the rare inflammatory disease known as secondary hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis. The proceeds will bankroll a phase 1b trial of the asset, dubbed ELA026, as well as further studies testing the drug in other rare diseases, said Adam Rosenthal, Ph.D., CEO and co-founder, in an interview. 

Electra's drugs are going after signal regulatory proteins, or SIRPs. Aside from the clinical asset, the biotech has two preclinical programs in immunology and various cancers, Rosenthal said.

“We’re using SIRP on the surface of these various immune cells and using it as a cell surface anchor to then deplete these immune cells from circulation," Rosenthal said. "So, in all the diseases, the common theme that we’re going after is an overactive immune system, and there’s different immune cells involved, and we’re trying to target those very specifically and precisely to deplete those and basically put a brake on the immune system haywire that’s happening."

RELATED: Sanofi's Enjaymo, once a jewel in its Bioverativ buyout, finally wins its FDA nod for a rare blood disorder

Rosenthal was previously chief business officer of True North, which developed Enjaymo, approved this month by the FDA for the rare blood disorder cold agglutinin disease. True North sold to Bioverativ for $400 million upfront in 2017. Sanofi gobbled up the Biogen spinout for $11.6 billion a year later, thus bringing Enjaymo under the French Big Pharma's umbrella.

Following that exit, Rosenthal set up Star Therapeutics in 2018. Electra is the first of Star's two portfolio startups. The other biotech, focused on hematology diseases, is "waiting in the wings" with a reveal expected soon, Rosenthal said. 

Star essentially acts as the "innovation engine that can then feed into the family companies," each of which is centered around a "very distinct area of biology," Rosenthal said. 

Both companies are led by Rosenthal. The C-suite includes a roster of former True North leaders including Chief Scientific Officer Sandip Panicker, Ph.D., Chief Medical Officer Gary Patou, M.D., and Chief Operating Officer Kathy Dong.

OrbiMed and Westlake Village BioPartners led Electra's series B. The biotech's previous funding came from Star's $100 million coffers, Rosenthal said.

Star is not to be confused with F-star Therapeutics, which has inked deals with many a Big Pharma.