Ex-Kythera team raises $40M for dermatology clinical trials

The ex-Kythera team now running Sienna will use the Series B for trials in pruritus and psoriasis

Sienna Biopharmaceuticals has raised $40 million to advance its pipeline of clinical-phase aesthetic and dermatology assets. The Series B round continues the rapid rise of Sienna, which has raised $86 million and bought Creabilis since it emerged helmed by the ex-Kythera Biopharmaceuticals team last year.

Westlake Village, California-based Sienna plans to use the money for further development of drugs in both tracks of its pipeline. Some of the money will go toward a phase 2b trial of TrkA inhibitor SNA-120 in pruritus and psoriasis and proof-of-concept work on dual TrkA-JAK3 inhibitor SNA-125 in those same indications, plus atopic dermatitis. Sienna acquired both the topical assets when it bought British biotech Creabilis for up to $150 million late last year.

The Creabilis takeover added a second strand to Sienna’s pipeline. Sienna developed the original strand while it was still a resident of Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS going by the name Sienna Labs. That part of Sienna’s pipeline consists of light-absorbing particles designed to enhance the effect of dermatologic lasers. The lead candidate from the photoparticle therapy platform, SNA-001, is in pivotal trials in acne vulgaris and reduction of unwanted light-pigmented hair.

Sienna has changed in more than just name since its JLABS days. The current management team is loaded with executives last seen leading Kythera and its double-chin treatment to a $2.1 billion takeover by Allergan. CEO Frederick Beddingfield III, M.D., Ph.D. was CMO of Kythera. Sienna CMO Paul Lizzul, M.D., Ph.D. was senior medical director at Kythera. And Ryan Irvine, Ph.D., Diane Stroehmann, Jere Fellmann, Ph.D., Susan Lundeen and Majed Kheir also joined Sienna after helping Beddingfield and Lizzul drive Kythera to the Allergan takeover.

There is overlap in the investors in Kythera and Sienna, too. Existing investors ARCH Venture Partners and Venvest Capital led the round. But Sienna also leant on new investors such as Fidelity Investments and Omega Fund, which accounted for around half of the money raised. Former Allergan CEO David Pyott participated, too. 

The support of the investors will drive clinical development in fields that have proven to be attractive to strategic buyers. Allergan has continued to seek to defend and grow its position in the sector since the Kythera buyout through deals with companies including Anterios and Zeltiq Aesthetics. And companies such as Novartis and Pfizer have struck buyouts to gain assets in the same indications being targeted by Sienna’s other, pruritus and psoriasis-focused unit.