Selecta banks $20M for trial work, inks a pact with Sanofi on diabetes

Selecta Biosciences has banked a $20 million-plus round designed to get its lead treatment into the clinic with an eye to providing some basic proof-of-concept data to show that their vaccine particle technology platform will be useful for a full slate of programs.

Working with science initially developed by MIT's Bob Langer, the company has shifted its focus to include thwarting an unwanted immune system attack on a drug. The biotech set up a program for SEL-212 with plans to make a new, much safer version of pegsiticase for treatment-resistant gout.

Selecta also announced that it is expanding its work with Sanofi ($SNY) and JDRF to develop a synthetic vaccine particle immunotherapy that could reset the human immune system to prevent Type 1 diabetes, using its targeted, antigen-specific approach to halt the harmful assault caused by diabetes.

Langer, Omid Farokhzad and Ulrich von Andrian of the Harvard Medical School joined in creating the scientific foundation for the company.

Selecta CEO Werner Cautreels

That combination of MIT and Harvard scientific roots helped attract several new investors into the round, says Selecta CEO Werner Cautreels, including a Russian group called I2BF and Eminent Venture Capital from Taiwan. Selecta is one of several U.S. biotechs which gained an investment from Rusnano, and this new round beefs up the foreign component of their venture group. The list of current investors--including Polaris Venture Partners, Flagship Ventures, OrbiMed Advisors, NanoDimension and Leukon Investments--came back to beef up the company's total venture haul to $78.6 million.

"The compelling part of refractory gout is that we can quickly go into patients," Cautreels tells FierceBiotech. "The final design (of the clinical study) is something we will discuss further with the FDA, but with 40 patients you can have very compelling data." One of the reasons is that all patients develop antibodies against "this specific enzyme," making it easier for investigators to prove their case.

Watertown, MA-based Selecta believes that it can strike some industry partnerships to help push their work along. In the meantime, Cautreels notes that he's thinking about a possible IPO--"just like everybody else is."

- here's the release on the venture cash
- here's the release on the expanded Sanofi pact

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