Investors have showered Star Therapeutics with $90 million to grow its portfolio companies and develop new antibody drugs for diseases with high unmet need.
Sofinnova Investments led the oversubscribed series C round and was joined by new investors Qatar Investment Authority, Catalio Capital Management, Agent Capital, Soleus Capital and NYBC Ventures alongside all seven existing investors. The new funds nearly double the $100 million Star had already raised since its founding in late 2018.
“Each of our programs goes after multiple diseases with each antibody therapy—so it's a constellation of diseases for every one of our programs,” Star's CEO and founder Adam Rosenthal, Ph.D., told Fierce Biotech.
Star is a biotech portfolio company that has formed two publicly disclosed offshoots to date—Electra Therapeutics and Vega Therapeutics, both of which are named after stars. While Electra is now an independently financed company, blood-disorder-focused Vega remains under Star’s wing.
The newest financing will in part go toward Vega’s VGA039, a monoclonal antibody currently being assessed in a phase 1a/1b study that launched earlier this year. The asset is designed to treat von Willebrand disease (VWD), a bleeding disorder in which blood can’t clot properly. Available treatments, such as factor replacement therapies, are limited and require frequent intravenous infusions.
Vega hopes VGA039 can address these limitations as a subcutaneously self-administered antibody therapy that targets a fundamental mechanism of clot formation via protein S, Rosenthal explained, adding that the company thinks the asset could transform the VWD treatment landscape.
“This is very similar actually to what Hemlibra has done in the hemophilia A space,” Rosenthal said, likening the asset’s potential to Roche’s and Chugai’s bispecific monoclonal antibody blockbuster. “Prior to that, really there was only factor replacement therapies, which often are quite burdensome on patients.”
The new funds are expected to move VGA039—which received FDA orphan-drug designation this spring—through the entirety of the phase 1a/1b trial, Rosenthal said.
“I think we're one of the first and probably the furthest along,” Rosenthal said, referring to antibody therapy developers for VWD. “So, it's an area that probably will get more competitive as people are acknowledging and realizing the unmet need and VWD.”
VGA039 also holds potential among other bleeding disorders such as other factor deficiencies and platelet conditions.
Star’s series C cash will also be channeled into additional portfolio companies that have yet to be publicly revealed. The business's design allows flexibility when building out teams that have expertise in specific therapeutic areas and to pursue different financing strategies and opportunities for each company, Rosenthal explained.
Star’s constellation of companies boldly go into “areas of white space,” the CEO said—or rare diseases with unmet medical need—a strategy he dubs the company’s “special sauce.”
It also helps explain the emphasis on stars, which Rosenthal said represent the plethora of opportunities available to treat the multitude of diseases that exist today.