Biotech startup Vera Therapeutics launches with $80m Series C financing to develop phase 2b novel biologic for kidney disease
Vera Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on developing treatments for immunological and inflammatory diseases, announced its launch backed by $80 million Series C financing led by Abingworth LLP. Other investors included Sofinnova Investments, Longitude Capital, Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, Surveyor Capital (a Citadel company), Octagon Capital, Kleiner Perkins, GV (formerly Google Ventures), and Alexandria Venture Investments.
Proceeds from the financing will support the advancement of Vera's lead clinical candidate, atacicept, a novel inhibitor of B cells and plasma cells, in patients with IgA nephropathy (IgAN). The proceeds will also be used to scale the company's manufacturing capabilities and expand Vera's therapeutic pipeline in immunologic and inflammatory disease.
In-licensed from Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, atacicept has been studied previously in autoimmune diseases and shown to reduce autoantibodies in a dose-dependent fashion with once-weekly subcutaneous dosing and has a well-established and acceptable clinical safety profile. New clinical trial results in patients with IgAN presented in 2020 showed that atacicept significantly reduces galactose-deficient immunoglobulin A (Gd-IgA1) – the source of immune complexes that cause disease – and proteinuria. Vera is on track to start a Phase 2b study in IgAN patients in mid-2021 and is investing in commercial-scale manufacturing capabilities.
Marshall Fordyce, Founder and CEO, Vera Therapeutics: "The strong support of our syndicate reflects strong conviction in Vera's clinical development experience and the potential of our lead asset to target the source of immune complexes in patients with IgAN and change the standard of care. Unlike other drugs in development to treat IgAN, a rare disease with no approved treatments, atacicept significantly reduces galactose-deficient immunoglobulin A (Gd-IgA1) – the source of immune complexes that cause disease – at doses with a well-established and acceptable safety profile. Therefore, atacicept may be uniquely positioned to be disease-modifying for these patients with no current treatment options."
Vera has executive and clinical development teams with deep experience in drug development and commercialization from Gilead Sciences. Joanne Curley, previously Vice President of Project and Portfolio Management, joined as Chief Development Officer; Lauren Frenz, who previously led US marketing of GENVOYA, joined as Chief Business Officer; and Tom Doan, previously Executive Director, Clinical Operations and Therapeutic Area Head, Inflammatory/Respiratory, was appointed Senior Vice President, Clinical Operations.
The Company's Board of Directors includes Kurt von Emster (Managing Partner, Abingworth), Patrick Enright (Managing Director, Longitude Capital), Maha Katabi (General Partner, Sofinnova Investments), Beth Seidenberg (General Partner, Kleiner Perkins), Scott Morrison (former Partner and U.S. Life Sciences Leader, Ernst & Young), Andrew Cheng (President and CEO, Akero Therapeutics), and Marshall Fordyce (President and CEO, Vera Therapeutics).
Kurt von Emster, Managing Partner, Abingworth: "Vera has an outstanding team with track records in successful clinical and commercial development. Dr. Fordyce brings significant leadership and entrepreneurial experience to this unique opportunity, where we have a clear line-of-sight from a well-validated biologic target to a substantially de-risked drug product, in a disease area that is commercially underserved, presenting a near-term opportunity to demonstrate disease modification for patients with limited options."