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Immunotherapy Biotech Gains $325M in Venture Funds

Investment graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

9 July 2019. A biotechnology enterprise developing personalized treatments for cancer and infectious diseases is raising $325 million in its second venture funding round. The new financing gives BioNTech SE in Mainz, Germany a total of $595 million raised in its first two venture rounds since January 2018.

BioNTech is an 11-year old company spun off from Johannes-Gutenberg University in Mainz developing immunotherapies from synthetic forms of messenger RNA, a nucleic acid linked to DNA, transmitted to cells for production of amino acids in proteins to carry out functions in the body. Much of the company’s current pipeline is devoted to cancer treatments that go beyond messenger RNA immunotherapies to protein and small molecule drugs, and cell and gene therapies, including chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR T-cell treatments for cancer. BioNTech also has a diagnostic division and manufacturing facilities.

A key part of BioNTech’s business strategy is partnerships with other biotechnology developers, pharmaceutical companies, and academic research labs. As reported in Science & Enterprise in August 2018, BioNTech and drug maker Pfizer are collaborating on a vaccine to prevent seasonal influenza using messenger RNA, where BioNTech will be responsible for initial development of the vaccine through the first clinical trial. If all stages of the deal are completed, the partnership could bring BioNTech as much as $425 million.

BioNTech is also acquiring assets from other biotechnology companies to build its portfolio. In May, BioNTech bought the rights to synthetic targeted antibodies for treating solid tumor cancers from MabVax Therapeutics in San Diego, a company reportedly in financial trouble. One of the immunotherapies is being tested in an early- and mid-stage clinical trial. Included in the deal are MabVax’s labs, which enables BioNTech to build a research center in San Diego, making it easier for the company to conduct clinical trials in the U.S. Financial aspects of the agreement were not disclosed.

The new venture round raising $325 million is led by Fidelity Management & Research Company in Boston, the asset management arm of Fidelity Investments. Taking part in the financing are new and current investors Redmile Group, Invus, MiraeAsset Financial Group, Platinum Asset Management, Jebsen Capital, Steam Athena Capital, BVCF Management, and the Struengmann Family Office. BioNTech says two-thirds of the funds are from new investors.

In a company statement, BioNTech’s CEO and co-founder Ugur Sahin welcomes ” the support from high-technology investors who see the accelerating convergence of biology with bioinformatics, robotics, and artificial intelligence as an opportunity to develop more precise, efficacious and cost-effective individualized immunotherapies.”

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Disclosure: The author owns shares in Pfizer.

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