|True North CEO Nancy Stagliano|
Nancy Stagliano has a very clear idea of how to plot a course for True North. Eighteen months ago the biotech CEO raised $30 million for iPierian and split its assets with the newborn True North Therapeutics. Seven months later Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) snapped up a reorganized iPierian in a $725 million deal. Then in swift succession Stagliano raised new funds, beefed up her staff with a key hire and is now banking $35 million in a fresh venture round that will take True North into the clinic with its lead therapy for rare diseases while positioning its follow-up program for human studies.
"I think these are good days to be raising money," the veteran Stagliano tells FierceBiotech. The new money, which brings South San Francisco-based True North's solo total to $57 million, will take TNT009 through Phase Ia and Ib studies as a second candidate moves into position for an early-stage trial of its own.
Stagliano has managed to keep the attention of the biotech's A-list investors, while adding a new one. OrbiMed stepped in to lead this round, with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, MPM Capital, SR One (GlaxoSmithKline's very active venture arm), and Baxter Ventures coming back for more. Stagliano notes that Biogen Idec ($BIIB) maintained its investment through MPM.
They came back to take the next step in seeing how the lead antibody does in tackling the "classical complement" pathway, which plays a big role in the immune system response to pathogens. The company believes that blocking C1s, a serine protease within the complement pathway of the immune system, can prevent antibody-mediated rejection in kidney transplant and rare hematologic diseases, such as cold agglutinin disease, an autoimmune disease.
"We are the leaders in the classical complement," says Stagliano, who says the initial trials will be completed in the first half of 2016. Keeping a clear focus on novel therapeutics that precisely target rare diseases, she adds, is a good place to be right now in biotech.
"We have a very clear path here in terms of developing the lead asset and a second candidate," says the CEO. Beyond that, "we're keeping our options open. We have the ability to develop this drug in a unique way, and get very clear answers in the clinic."
Special Report: Top women in biotech 2013 - Nancy Stagliano