Sofinnova, LSP lead $17M round for gene therapy player XyloCor

XyloCor Therapeutics raised $17 million in its series A round to advance a gene therapy pipeline for cardiovascular disease. Its lead asset is a treatment for angina that is poised to enter the clinic in 2019.

Angina is chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart, often because of coronary artery disease. XyloCor’s lead gene therapy, XC001, is designed to promote the growth of new blood vessels. The Philadelphia-based company hopes it will become a one-time treatment for patients with chronic angina that cannot be treated with other means, including coronary artery bypass surgery, percutaneous coronary intervention and stents.

Treatment-resistant patients tend to become sedentary, which can worsen symptoms and comorbidities, the company said in a statement. The hope is XyloCor’s gene therapy will not only relieve pain by stimulating new blood vessel growth, but also allow patients to become more active and improve their quality of life, said XyloCor co-founder and board member, Todd Rosengart, M.D., a professor and chair of the department of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine. 

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“XyloCor was created to develop a proprietary gene therapy for patients with refractory angina who have no remaining treatment options. This significant raise enables the research and development for our lead investigational product XC001, which has the potential to provide new hope for patients who suffer from this chronic and debilitating disease,” said XyloCor CEO Al Gianchetti, an industry vet and former GlaxoSmithKline executive. 

Sofinnova Ventures and LSP (Life Sciences Partners) led the financing. In addition to moving XC001 forward, the capital will help XyloCor build its business and operating structure. The company is investigating a second candidate, XC002, as a treatment that could regenerate tissue in patients whose cardiac tissue is damaged from heart attacks. 

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Gene therapy has been heating up in recent years, with Sarepta adding a raft of gene therapies to its pipeline, Orchard Therapeutics picking up GlaxoSmithKline’s rare disease gene therapy assets and Axovant pivoting to gene therapies after its lead Alzheimer’s drug—the GSK castoff intepirdine—failed spectacularly. 

XyloCor isn’t the first to try to deploy gene therapy in heart disease, a common ailment compared to the rare diseases that others in the field are targeting. San Diego-based Celladon tried to create one for heart failure, but in 2015 reported a phase 2 flop. The treatment, called Mydicar, failed to reduce hospitalizations, improve survival rates or free patients from the need for ventricular-assist devices and heart transplants, a sweeping failure that destroyed the company's market value.