By David Gross
Flagship Pioneering-backed Laronde announced a series B yesterday, raising $440 million in this quarter’s largest VC round this quarter, just ahead of the $430 million Pivot Bio raised last month. The “Endless RNA” or eRNA developer plans to use the funds to advance research and build out its manufacturing capacity.
Endless RNA is intended to get around the immune system’s ability to respond to previously seen RNA sequences by closing it in a loop, concealing its contents. This allows for repeat dosing of medicines that is not possible with standard linear RNA. This is the second major “nonlinear” RNA funding this year, with Orna Therapeutics receiving $100 million earlier this year from a syndicate including Novartis, BMS, and Gilead/Kite for its circular RNA technology.
While Orna is focused for now on replacing autologous cell therapies by repeatedly delivering CARs into patients, Laronde has grander ambitions to produce a platform that could include 100 medicines. Both approaches will require significant lab and clinical manufacturing capacity. Last year, Orna entered into a sublease for 20,000 square feet @$95 per square foot at 620 Memorial Drive in Cambridge, about two miles west of Kendall Square on the west side of the MIT campus across from the BU bridge. Laronde says it will need to hire 100 people, which depending on the manufacturing/lab mix would suggest a need for 40,000-60,000 square feet of space but is currently using Flagship’s Cambridge offices. Flagship recently leased 208,000 feet at the new Boynton Yards development in Somerville, a mile north of Kendall Square, where Laronde could expand.