Saniona’s partner AstronauTx has closed a USD 61 million Series A financing to create new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, attracting capital from several leading global venture investors. BioStock reached out to Thomas Feldthus, CEO of Saniona, for a comment.
In July 2023, Saniona entered into a research collaboration with AstronauTx in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions. Saniona may receive up to USD 177 million (SEK 1.9 billion) in milestone payments, as well as royalties on worldwide net sales of resulting products under the collaboration. Read an interview where Saniona’s CEO Thomas Feldthus discusses the collaboration, here.
AstronauTx closes a USD 61 million series A financing
On October 9th, AstronauTx announced the completion of a USD 61 million Series A financing. The financing was led by the Novartis Venture Fund, attracting capital from several leading global venture investors, including Brandon Capital, Bristol Myers Squibb, EQT Life Sciences investing from the LSP Dementia Fund, MPM Capital with participation from Dementia Discovery Fund.
Saniona’s CEO comments on the new AstronauTx financing
Since Saniona’s technology platform IonBase plays a central role in the collaboration with AstronauTx, BioStock reached out to the company’s CEO, Thomas Feldthus, for his insights and comments.
First, Thomas, let’s begin by discussing the collaboration with AstronauTx, which centres around an undisclosed specific ion channel target. What makes the development of an ion channel drug candidate for addressing neurodegenerative conditions particularly exciting?
– AstronauTx is interested in the star-shaped astrocytes, which make up most cells in our brain, and Saniona is interested in the ion channels found on all cells. In principle, astrocytes act as engineers, architects, fitters, suppliers, and cleaners of our brains. Their performance is among other things controlled by ion channels. Thus, astrocytes will not work properly if their ion channels are not working properly, which could lead to plaques and tau formation and ultimately neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. The astrocyte scientists at AstronauTx and the ion channel scientists at Saniona are now working together on making a new type of medicine which can improve the function of astrocytes, if they don’t work properly, and thereby provide a new and potentially disease modifying therapy for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
AstronauTx has been successful in attracting venture capital, a noteworthy achievement considering that your partnership is still in its early research phase. What does this reflect regarding the value of your pipeline and research platform?
– AstronauTx has attracted a very impressive syndicate of investors and USD 61 million (SEK 660 million) is a sizeable investment for a company with only one preclinical program. Certainly, the collaboration with Saniona has been subject to these top-tier investors’ due diligence and demonstrated its quality and value. This financing demonstrates that it is possible to raise significant financing among leading venture capital firms based on a strong technology platform, well-founded ideas, and solid plans to resolve a significant unmet medical need in a major disease area such as Alzheimer’s disease. The money is more than AstronauTx will be able to spend on the Saniona program in the near term. Therefore, it may also cover later clinical studies as well as potential other programs.
The Series A financing made during a challenging financial landscape is notable. In your opinion, does being a private company like AstronauTx confer any advantages over publicly traded companies in the field of neurodegenerative diseases?
– The venture capital firms in this financing have a long-term horizon and believe that it is possible to create significant value on high-quality early-stage assets. There are speciality investors with a long-time horizon also in the public market. I hope this capital raise can serve as an inspiration to specialty investors active in the public market.
To wrap this up, you’ve secured a financial runway that extends into 2024. Could you discuss your plans for ensuring a stable revenue stream for 2024 and beyond, potentially into 2025 and 2026?
– Saniona has both early stage and more mature programs. As a public company, we may not get credit for our early-stage assets. However, most of our research activities are conducted in collaboration with biopharmaceutical companies like AstronauTx. This part of our business is self-financed and has proven to be profitable over time. We are working on adding even more early-stage collaborations. If successful, this may cover our operational costs. In addition, we are exploring partnerships for some of our more mature assets, which can generate near term income to fund other clinical programs. In this way, we will finance our R&D activities through different sources of income streams from partners. A stable revenue stream would require royalty income from a product on the market. Our most advanced program, tesofensine, is under regulatory review in Mexico. If approved this could provide an important source of income to Saniona in the near to mid- term.
Sanionas joint venture med AstronauTx
AstronauTx grundades av Dementia Discovery Fund 2019 med ytterligare såddfinansiering från UCL Technology Fund och UK Future Fund. Målet var att utveckla nya läkemedel som kan återställa normal hjärnfunktion hos patienter som lider av neurodegenerativa sjukdomar. I juli 2023 tillkännagav AstronauTx ett partnerskap med Saniona. Avtalet syftade till att identifiera nya behandlingar genom att modulera ett nytt, icke offentliggjort jonkanalmål, vilket sålunda utökade Sanionas portfölj av läkemedelsprogram. En viktig del av forskningssamarbetet är användningen av Sanionas egenutvecklade plattform, IonBase, för modulering av jonkanaler. I september 2023 tilldelades AstronauTx ett anslag från Innovate UK för att finansiera prekliniskt arbete inom ett av sina program.The content of BioStock’s news and analyses is independent but the work of BioStock is to a certain degree financed by life science companies. The above article concerns a company from which BioStock has received financing.