Two More Pharmas Practice Their Accent, Invest in $75M Series C Round
January 24 , 2024
By Max Bayer, FierceBiotech, Jan 23, 2024

Accent Therapeutics has reeled in investments from two more pharmaceutical companies as part of a $75M series C, the latest validation for the RNA drug developer.

Bristol Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson’s investment arm, JJDC, participated in the funding round that was announced Tuesday, which was led by the recently launched Mirae Asset Capital Life Science. The two pharmas join AbbVie’s venture arm which had previously participated in the biotech's series B. 

Accent CEO Shakti Narayan, Ph.D., said the money will help drive further development of the company’s two lead small molecules, targeting DHX9 and KIF18A, respectively. Accent’s plan is to formally ask regulators to enter human trials for both programs before the end of the year and put each in phase 1 studies by early 2025. 

The three pharma backers come in addition to Accent’s existing research and licensing collaboration with AstraZeneca, announced in 2020. That gave the British pharma the option to a preclinical program that Accent would develop through phase 1 studies, plus worldwide licensing rights to two additional preclinical assets should AstraZeneca want more. Narayan wouldn’t specify which programs in the pipeline, if any, were assigned to AstraZeneca, saying only that the two lead programs were wholly owned. 

All told, Narayan says the attention shows that Big Pharma“is excited about our story [and] is excited about the programs we're driving forward.” 

“Together with our collaboration with AstraZeneca, there's just a great sense of endorsement and engagement from Big Pharma around our strategy and our vision,” he said. 

The DHX9 asset has the potential to be first-in-class, but the KIF18A program is lagging slightly behind Volastra Therapeutics, which has two such assets in the clinic, one of which the biotech snagged from Amgen. Naveen Krishnan, M.D., managing director of Mirae Asset Capital’s new life science fund and incoming Accent board member, said Accent could gain from Volastra’s learnings. 

“Accent had a unique approach for how they're pursuing their KIF18 asset that to me, really focuses on widening that therapeutic index,” Krishnan said. “And I think there's certainly room for more than one player, particularly in KIF18A.” 

Accent marks the first public investment for Kirshnan and Mirae’s new life science arm, which was unveiled last week with $50 million to spend. Krishnan, who took the reins after more than two years at Leaps by Bayer, expects the fund to make up to eight investments this year. He and the firm are already finalizing plans to participate in another unnamed biotech’s financing.
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