Kriya Therapeutics has reeled in a whopping $270 million from its series C round, surpassing the $180 million raised in total over the last two years and solidifying ample financing to build out its all-in-one gene therapy business.
Led by Patient Square Capital, the financing brings Kriya’s two-year total to $450 million, validating the company's decision to prioritize its manufacturing capability and core development technology before developing a pipeline. CEO Shankar Ramaswamy, M.D., described Kriya as taking a “bottom up approach” compared to the pipeline-first strategy of most of the gene industry.
“While that may be an appropriate approach if you're thinking about yourself as a one-product or two-product company, if you want to build a company that can deliver dozens of gene therapy products, you need to have that foundation to build off,” Ramaswamy said in an interview with Fierce Biotech.
That foundation to date has been constructed through investments in manufacturing and platform development. The former is evidenced by Kriya’s decision to secure a now-operational manufacturing facility in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, in August 2020, three months after closing its series A. The company has also built out its computational machine learning platform, dubbed SIRVE, to more efficiently develop and test new gene therapies.
As a result, the number of Kriya staff has soared from just three founders at the beginning of 2020 to more than 160 employees today.
With a more concrete infrastructure, the company is now turning toward its pipeline. Ramaswamy wouldn’t specify exactly how many programs are in development but said Kriya has “a number” in each of the following therapeutic areas: ophthalmology, oncology, chronic diseases and rare diseases. The plan is to have the first Kriya product in the clinic in 2023.
“We’re advancing multiple programs in parallel, and that is programs plural—we have several with preclinical proof of concept established,” the CEO said.
By prioritizing manufacturing, Ramaswamy said the company intends to progress a number of partnered programs as well. That’s already begun, marked by Kriya’s purchase of Warden Bio in January, which unlocked access to five preclinical gene therapy programs. As part of the deal, Warden CEO and co-founder Kunal Kishnani joined Kriya to lead its rare disease program.
As one of the largest single fundraising rounds so far this year, Kriya's series C provides an insight into how the sinking public biotech market is impacting private investments. Patient Square Capital Managing Partner Jim Momtazee said there has been a lag between the impact of the public market on private financing. That was clear in 2021 data, which tallied record private biotech fundraising even though the public market peaked in February.
“For Kriya specifically, I think we were mindful of the world that we're in when the series B was put together a year ago,” said Momtazee, crediting Ramaswamy for his foresight in advocating for more money to weather the current market. “So we very purposefully capitalized this company very well, right now, so the company could be on its front foot at a moment in time where this industry is not."
There’s likely more money available in the future should Kriya need it, Momtazee added.
If or when that may happen is unknown, with Ramaswamy declining to disclose a specific cash runaway beyond the latest series C. Instead, the CEO described the available money as providing enough financing to propel existing programs into the clinic, add new therapies to the pipeline—either through R&D or business development—and refine its SIRVE platform. All in all, the company is continuing its wide-net-style spending, confident it will pay dividends in the long run.
“We start with the foundation of infrastructure and technology and feed products into that, as opposed to starting with the product first and … solving the capabilities after the fact,” said Ramaswamy.