Lilly invests in MiNA to fund trials of protein-upregulating RNA

MiNA CEO Robert Habib
MiNA CEO Robert Habib (MiNA Therapeutics)

Eli Lilly is set to invest $15 million in its small activating RNA (saRNA) partner MiNA Therapeutics. The investment comes two months after Lilly agreed to pay $25 million upfront to work with MiNA on up to five targets.

London-based MiNA is developing saRNAs designed to drive the production of a target protein in human cells through the recruitment of endogenous transcription complexes and generation of new mRNA. The approach has attracted AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim and Lilly, each of which has formed deals with MiNA in recent years.

Now, MiNA has secured a $15 million investment from Lilly. MiNA will use the money to advance its internal pipeline of saRNA therapeutics, which is led by a drug designed to cut immunosuppression by raising levels of the C/EBP-⍺ master regulator of myeloid cell differentiation.

“We welcome Lilly as an important shareholder in MiNA. This investment from Lilly, together with our recently announced multi-target research collaboration, represents an important endorsement of our saRNA platform,” MiNA CEO Robert Habib said in a statement.

The investment comes 10 months after MiNA disclosed a £23 million series A financing round. That earlier funding, which was led by aMoon, set MiNA up to take its lead drug MTL-CEBPA into a phase 2 liver cancer trial in combination with Bayer’s Nexavar. MiNA reached the cusp of phase 2 with the support of Sosei, which paid $35 million for a 26% stake before opting against buying the biotech. 

Freed from the Sosei option agreement, MiNA raised money to forge ahead independently. The plan is to evaluate the effect of weekly intravenous infusions of MTL-CEBPA on 70 advanced liver cancer patients who are taking daily oral doses of Nexavar. MiNA is assessing the safety of the combination and its anti-tumor activity. MiNA is also developing MTL-CEBPA in combination with Keytruda.