Sanofi backs $38M E round for Langer's Selecta

Selecta CEO Werner Cautreels

Selecta Biosciences is taking another carefully planned step down the biotech path it set for itself, raking in $38 million in fresh venture cash from some prominent investors--including its close collaborator Sanofi ($SNY)--and paving the way through a key mid-stage study of its lead program.

This latest draw brings Selecta's total raise to date to $115 million, bringing some crossover and traditional VCs together to advance the biotech through the next stage of drug development and closer to the moment of truth where it can choose between an IPO and any buyout offers that may come its way while exploring more potential industry collaborations.

"We can use this platform in different ways," says Selecta CEO Werner Cautreels. There's a shot at developing vaccines that pump up an immune system attack, but "where we are really novel is antigen specific tolerance."

The technology uses a general purpose polymer that can be designed to achieve different goals, using basic building blocks to make it relatively easy to scale up on the manufacturing side.

Selecta's "negative vaccine" technlogy, which came out of the labs of MIT investigator Robert Langer, Omid Farokhzad and Ulrich von Andrian of the Harvard Medical School, looks to use synthetic nanoparticles to block an unwanted immune response. Drawn to the potential, Sanofi came in to sign up for a string of collaborations on Type 1 diabetes, food allergies and celiac disease. 

Genethon, meanwhile, signed on to access the kind of tech that would allow for repeated administration of a gene therapy without arousing the immune system against the viral vector commonly used to deliver the genetic payload. And Cautreels & Co. clearly see some added potential for using this tech in other gene therapies, an explosive field that has been fielding evidence that one treatment may not last a lifetime.

Selecta's lead program--SEL-212--is for gout, repurposing an existing therapeutic so that it strips out the risk of an immune system attack. Phase I is wrapping now and a mid-stage study is slated to begin in 2016. The cash will allow for a few more hires for the team, which is now around 40 staffers.