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Massachusetts biotech continues to excite with new investments

Authored by Karl Simpson

Massachusetts is a booming biotech cluster and this week has seen a number of funding events that once again signal the level of innovation and investor interest the cluster attracts.

First up, David Mott’s New Enterprise Associates led a syndicated series B round of $18m for another rare disease company, Edimer Pharmaceuticals. Mott seems to like this sector and has already backed Cristina Csimma’s Cydan, a rare disease accelerator aimed at de-risking and developing early stage rare disease assets. He also put some investment into Prosensa, a company we profiled for their exon skipping therapy in a recent rare disease report on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

On this occasion, David Mott has been joined by some other very notable names in investing in Edimer Pharmaceuticals. These include Third Rock Ventures who are certainly not new to areas like rare diseases and gene therapy and who led the series A in Edimer. Then Sanofi-Genzyme BioVentures also came to the table, which if you’re a rare disease company is not a bad investor to have in the tent.

Edimer Pharmaceuticals, led by Neil Kirby who has worked for Vertex and TKT, as a company is dedicated to developing EDI200 as a treatment for X-linked Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia (XLHED). XLHED is a rare orphan disease that causes a range of symptoms including lack of sweat glands, poor temperature control, respiratory problems, and hair and tooth malformations.

Then we learnt that Dicerna Pharmaceuticals had raised $60m in a series C round. Dicerna is an emerging pharmaceutical company developing RNA interference (RNAi)-based therapeutics against genetically-defined targets in multiple disease areas, including cancer. Dicerna’s promising therapeutic approach utilizes its patented Dicer Substrate siRNA (DsiRNA™) molecules and EnCore™ drug delivery technologies to silence previously undruggable disease targets, offering a potential new treatment option for patients.

In securing the round, previous investors in Dicerna Pharmaceuticals came back in, including Abingworth Management and SR One, as well as new investors RA Capital, Brookside Capital, Deerfield and Omega Funds.

Add to this another company addressing the oncology market, Karyopharm Therapeutics. The Company’s lead products are first in class, oral Selective Inhibitors of Nuclear Export (SINE), which irreversibly block nuclear-cytoplasmic transport mediated by Exportin-1 (XPO1, also called CRM1). Karyopharm Therapeutics announced they had added $19m in a Series B1 financing round which augments the sizeable $48.2m they closed in a Series B back in May this year. This Series B1 round saw further participation from Delphi but also saw money from Forsite Capital Management and New Leaf Venture Partners.

There is no question that the Massachusetts area is absolutely alive and kicking currently and I for one will look forward to seeing the activity up close when I get to the BioPharma America partnering event in Boston in September.

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