Rare Daily Staff
Laronde, a platform company developing a new engineered form of RNA that can be programmed to express therapeutic proteins inside the body, raised $440 Million in a series B Financing to advance the development of its eRNA platform and a broad pipeline of programs across a many therapeutic categories.
The financing round included the company’s founder, Flagship Pioneering, along with funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Invus, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Fidelity Management & Research Company, funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, and Federated Hermes Kaufmann Funds, among others.
“Endless RNA represents a whole new approach to making medicines and treating disease,” said Diego Miralles, CEO of Laronde and CEO-Partner at Flagship Pioneering. “Laronde is creating a new class of drugs that can be programmed to persistently express proteins in the body, is redosable, and can be administered through simple delivery mechanisms, resulting in highly tunable protein levels. The therapeutic possibilities enabled by eRNA are vast with the potential to greatly improve global human health. Having assembled such a knowledgeable and committed group of investors gives us the ability to not only advance this powerful technology platform but also build a transformative company to support our bold vision.”
The eRNA technology was invented at Flagship Labs by a team led by Flagship Pioneering General Partner Avak Kahvejian, the founding CEO of Laronde. In 2017, the team began to explore the therapeutic applicability of long non-coding RNA (lncRNA), naturally abundant in circular form within mammalian cells. Unlike natural messenger RNA (mRNA), which initiates translation by recruiting ribosomes through interaction with proteins bound to the mRNA’s 5′ region, natural circular lncRNA does not readily interact with ribosomes.
The team’s exploration led to the invention of eRNA, a proprietary, closed-loop RNA construct engineered to be translatable. Having no free ends, eRNA are not recognized by the innate immune system or exonuclease enzymes, and are highly stable, enabling a prolonged therapeutic effect. In addition, the therapeutic protein expression capabilities of eRNA are modular and programmable. Switching the eRNA “protein-coding cassette” directs the body to make different peptides, enzymes, antibodies, channels, and receptors, both inside and outside of the cell.
“Over the past few years, we have seen how programmable platforms like translatable mRNA can rapidly bring forward new medicines,” said Avak Kahvejian, co-founder and board member of Laronde, and general partner, Flagship Pioneering. “eRNA solves many of the limitations of other drug modalities and unlocks new opportunities for creating first- and best-in-class therapeutics. Since launch, we continue to advance the science of eRNA and have been able to precisely demonstrate a controlled expression of secreted peptides, proteins, antibodies, and vaccine constructs in vivo using an array of delivery options, including subcutaneous administration. Given the programmability of the platform and its unique pharmacology, we anticipate accelerated development timelines and a higher rate of program success than traditional biotech programs.”
The capital infusion will be used to build out Laronde’s Endless RNA technology platform and advance multiple eRNA programs in parallel by building a modular and scalable eRNA Gigabase Factory to accommodate the clinical and commercial manufacture of up to 100 products and drug programs in the next 10 years.
Photo: Diego Miralles, CEO of Laronde and CEO-Partner at Flagship Pioneering