​​​​​​​Synlogic backs onto Nasdaq by merging with Mirna

The reverse merger with Mirna positions Synlogic to move SYNB1020 into the clinic(Getty Images)

Synlogic has landed a Nasdaq listing and an $82 million cash pile by simultaneously pulling off a reverse merger with Mirna Therapeutics and a series C round. The activity tees up the Jose Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos, Ph.D.-helmed synthetic biology startup to push its lead candidate into the clinic in the coming months.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Synlogic turned to a mix of new and existing investors including Arctic Aurora LifeScience, Atlas Venture, CLI Ventures, New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and OrbiMed for the $42 million series C. That round comes 15 months after Synlogic pulled in $40 million in a series B. And, when combined with the cash Mirna has left from its failed tilt at drug development, gives the company $82 million to fuel its move into the clinic.

“We thought this was the most efficient way to generate funds to get us to the clinic,” Gutierrez-Ramos told the Boston Globe. Gutierrez-Ramos joined Synlogic in 2015 having previously overseen biotherapeutics research at Pfizer.

The centerpiece of Synlogic’s drive toward human testing is SYNB1020, a bacteria reprogrammed using synthetic biology tools. In the case of SYNB1020, the reprogramming is intended to equip the microbe to take excess ammonia out of the blood. The approach puts Synlogic in unchartered territory.

Synlogic will start to figure out how the approach works in humans from the middle of this year. A trial in healthy volunteers is first up, beyond which Synlogic plans to run parallel trials in patients with urea cycle disorders and hepatic encephalopathy. The post-merger cash pile will see Synlogic through to clinical proof of concept, Xconomy reports.

The deal means another of the biotechs that floated on Nasdaq during the boom period has slunk off in a reverse merger. Dipexium Pharmaceuticals, Signal Genetics and Tokai Pharmaceuticals all went public in 2014, while Nivalis Therapeutics joined Mirna in sneaking on to Nasdaq as the boom was starting to wind down in 2015. Each company has since stumbled and struck a deal based on the two assets of value they have left: Their cash and Nasdaq listing.

Mirna’s own assets were reduced to these bare bones after multiple immune-related severe adverse events forced it to halt a phase 1 trial. That scuttled the prospects of a company that landed on Nasdaq in 2015 with plans to get to phase 2 and a list of investors that included Baxalta, NEA, Pfizer and Sofinnova Ventures.