NEA turns to Europe in $30M round for RNA-drug developer Prosensa

The Dutch biotech Prosensa has rounded up 23 million euros--about $30 million--in a new round earmarked to back its work on RNA drug development for Duchenne muscular dystrophy and other rare diseases. New Enterprise Associates led the fundraising round, spearheading its first investment in Europe and signaling its interest in more global deals. NEA joined Abingworth, Life Sciences Partners, Gimv, Idinvest Partners and MedSciences Capital.

"Over the past few years, we have made substantial progress in our research and development pipeline," says Prosensa CEO Hans Schikan. "Our lead drug candidate for Duchenne muscular dystrophy is in Phase III clinical trials in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline. We have advanced the development of five additional compounds in DMD and have announced preclinical testing for a compound for DM1. This financing will help us to further strengthen our position in rare diseases and will allow us to deliver on our promise of accelerated development of treatments for patients in need."

The round marks an encouraging advance for RNA, a development field which has been plagued by some major league exits in the past two years. In Prosensa's case investigators have been focused on a novel approach to correcting the mutation in the dystrophin gene that triggers DMD. They're using antisense oligonucleotides to induce exon skipping, essentially jumping past the genetic alterations associated with the disease. GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) partnered with Prosensa back in 2009, pledging up to $680 million in their pact.

"While NEA is one of the largest venture firms in the world, with more than $11 billion in capital under management, Prosensa is our first biopharma investment in Europe and signals our openness to selectively consider investing in truly exceptional innovation in Europe as well as in our traditional geographies in the U.S., China and India," says David Mott, the general partner for NEA, which is managing $11 billion.

- here's the press release