To continue developing its stem-cell based treatment for heart failure, Tokyo-based Heartseed has raised 4 billion yen, or about $37 million U.S., in its latest venture capital round.
The funding will help kickstart a global clinical trial of its lead therapy, which aims to sow the weakened areas of the heart’s ventricles with fresh, purified cardiac muscle tissue, built from induced pluripotent stem cells.
The proceeds will also help support a proof-of-concept, phase 1/2 study launched earlier this year in Japan for heart failure with reduced left ventricular ejection fraction, as well as development of less-invasive, catheter-based injection methods for the therapy.
The series C just about doubles the company’s total financial backing to about $75 million since its 2015 launch.
It also comes shortly after Heartseed inked a collaboration and licensing agreement (PDF) with Novo Nordisk, granting the Danish drugmaker exclusive rights to develop, manufacture and commercialize the stem cell therapy globally—except in Japan, where the two companies will split the profits and costs 50/50.
That deal, announced earlier this month, includes $55 million upfront but could balloon to $598 million with near-term milestone payments, according to Heartseed.
“We gain access to an innovative clinical asset, underlying technology and deep expertise within the field of iPSC biology and cardiac cell transplantation, which can be combined with our knowledge and capabilities in stem cell biology and manufacturing,” Marcus Schindler, Ph.D., Novo Nordisk’s chief scientific officer and executive vice president for research and early development, said in a statement.
Heartseed’s treatment differs from other stem cell therapies by relying on spherical clusters of heart cells implanted in the muscle wall as opposed to sheets of cells that may be grafted onto the surface of the organ. The planted spheroids are then expected to grow and electrically sync up with contractions of other heart cells.
The latest funding round includes new backers UTokyo Innovation Platform Co., Medical Incubator Japan, Keio Innovation Initiative and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Investment plus returning investors SBI Group, Nissay Capital, SMBC Capital, Medipal Holdings and Itochu Chemical Frontier.