Quickfire megarounds tee Passage Bio up for gene therapy trials

Passage Bio has raised its second megaround of 2019. Months after breaking cover with a $115.5 million series A, the James Wilson-founded gene therapy startup has reeled in another $110 million to take several assets into the clinic while hustling other programs through preclinical studies.

The series B, which comes seven months after the series A, was led by Access Biotechnology, the life science investment arm of Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries. OrbiMed, Frazier Healthcare Partners, Versant Ventures and other top-tier investors that powered Passage Bio to the series A round also returned for the latest fundraising.

Passage Bio plans to use the money to move two gene therapies into the clinic in the first half of next year, hewing closely to the strategy it sketched out in February. Those programs target rare pediatric disease GM1 gangliosidosis and the neurodegenerative disorder frontotemporal dementia.

Since the series A, Passage Bio has added a third program to its pipeline, namely a treatment for the progressive nervous system condition Krabbe disease. Passage Bio expects to take that gene therapy into humans in the second half of 2020. If Passage Bio hits that target, it will have taken three assets into the clinic within two years of properly getting started as a company. 

That rate of progress is underpinned by work at Passage Bio’s academic partners. The University of Pennsylvania’s Gene Therapy Program is doing IND-enabling work on the treatments. Once a program gets past that stage, Passage Bio will take over for clinical development and beyond. 

Passage Bio has aspirations to keep up the fast pace of progress. Through a deal with Penn, Passage Bio has the rights to therapies in two more indications plus an option to license up to seven more assets. 

Work is underway to establish the infrastructure needed to support the expanding pipeline. In July, Passage Bio entered into an agreement with Paragon Gene Therapy to set up a dedicated production suite. The suite, which is due to start operating in the second half of 2020, will support Passage Bio as it works to meet clinical and potentially commercial demand for its gene therapies.