RARE Daily

Orna Raises $80 Million to Develop a New Class of Engineered RNA Therapies

February 24, 2021

Rare Daily Staff

Orna Therapeutics, a biotechnology company dedicated to designing and delivering a new class of fully engineered circular RNA therapeutics, said it completed an $80 million series A financing to advance the design and development of a new class of fully engineered circular RNA therapeutics.

MPM Capital, Taiho Ventures, and F2 Ventures co-led the financing, with participation from PAGS Group and several pharmaceutical companies including Gilead Sciences’ subsidiary Kite, Bristol Myers Squibb, Astellas Venture Management, and Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research.

Founded on groundbreaking research by Alex Wesselhoeft, Raffaella Squilloni, and Professor Dan Anderson, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and built by MPM Capital, Orna utilizes molecular design and delivery technologies to overcome the limitations of linear mRNA therapeutics and unlock RNA’s therapeutic potential to treat a wide range of diseases including cancer, autoimmune, and genetic disorders.

Orna says its engineered circular RNAs (oRNA) have several key advantages, including superior protein expression, simpler and more cost-effective manufacturing, and improved delivery. Unlike other RNA therapies, oRNA does not require the addition of cap or tail structures and does not require the use of modified nucleotides to address innate immune responses. In addition, oRNAs are designed to drive unparalleled protein production while resisting degradation inside the body.

“Our elegant solution to the circular RNA engineering problem has allowed us to reveal that oRNA is simply the better format for long coding RNA,” said Thomas Barnes, CEO of Orna. “Furthermore, our initial combination of oRNAs with technology to deliver them to immune cells has paved the way to create groundbreaking new therapies to fundamentally change the way we treat cancer and autoimmune diseases.”

The potential applications of Orna’s technology are far reaching. In particular, Orna believes it can apply its oRNA technology to potentially address the limitations of current immunotherapies by delivering chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) directly to patient’s immune cells within the body (in situ CAR therapy). The series A financing will enable Orna to bring its initial programs to IND enablement, while continuing to advance its robust platform and build the physical capabilities to support Orna’s mission.

Photo: Thomas Barnes, CEO of Orna

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