Flagship Pioneering-founded Generate Biomedicines is tacking on a gigantic $273 million in series C funds, though the haul didn't reach the heights of the biotech’s previous $370 million raise back in 2021.
No one at Generate really seems to care, though. In fact, executives contend it’s right where they want to be.
“It actually is right in the sweet spot of the size we were looking to raise when we set out to raise the capital,” Chief Financial Officer Jason Silvers told Fierce Biotech in an interview. The round attracted a bevy of new, high-profile investors including Amgen and Nvidia’s venture arm NVentures alongside all the previous backers.
The drop in funding between the series B and C reflects a wider trend in venture financing. In fact, the proportion of down private financing rounds is the highest in almost a decade, according to data collected by industry law firm Cooley. The firm reported that 21% of all the venture financing rounds it handled in the second quarter were down, the most in any quarter since the firm started collecting data in 2014.
But of all the down rounds to have, one where you still top a quarter of a billion dollars is likely the easiest of the pills to swallow. Generate now has close to $450 million in the bank, says CEO Mike Nally, much of which will be aimed at expanding the pipeline and advancing more assets in the clinic. Over the next year or two, the company hopes to have between four and six assets in clinical trials with another four to six coming up behind them.
Right now, the biotech has one candidate in the clinic: GB-0669, a monoclonal antibody targeting a "highly conserved" region of the COVID-19 virus’s spike protein. The antibody targets a different epitope on the virus to the receptor-binding domain, a target that, as a result, has been the source of considerable mutations. This gives Nally and his team hope that their antibody will deliver considerable cross-variant protection, which he said has already been demonstrated in some preclinical work.
“We see a distinct unmet medical need in the immunocompromised population,” the CEO said. “That is the population that suffers the gravest health consequences of the virus.” The trial launched in July and is currently in the dose-escalation phase. Nally said early data will trickle in this fall, and the study will wrap up in the “first part” of 2024.
Generate will also continue to invest in all corners of oncology, including bispecifics, T-cell engagers and cell therapy. Though how preclinical work advances in the pipeline will be dependent mostly on partnerships and whether Generate can find adequate collaborators with expertise in a given corner of cancer drug development.
This strategy has already been put into action with a recent partnership with the MD Anderson Cancer Center, through which Generate will develop up to five oncology targets, including for small cell and non-small cell lung cancer.
Another ongoing collaboration with Amgen is progressing well, Nally said. The deal, inked in January 2022, gave the Big Pharma rights to up to five assets across indications for $50 million upfront, milestone payments worth more than $1.8 billion and royalties. Amgen also has the option to select up to five additional programs each worth $370 million in biobucks. Generate has started all five of the initial batch programs, Nally told Fierce.
“They're all materially progressing,” he said. “They're doing really well.” The company has yet to announce any of the programs formally being handed off to Amgen.