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Chip-Based RNA Biotech Raises $60M in Venture Funds

DNA chip graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

23 Sept. 2020. A company developing messenger RNA therapeutics on demand from single-use biochips is raising $60 million in its second venture funding round. Nutcracker Therapeutics Inc., a two year-old enterprise in Emeryville, California, says its technology can be used either for discovery of new treatments or manufacturing of therapies at a larger scale.

Messenger RNA or mRNA is a nucleic acid based on the genetic code from DNA, with instructions for cells to produce the amino acids in proteins for cellular functions, and an emerging platform for therapies. But ribonucleic acid, or RNA, by itself breaks down quickly in the body, thus it needs delivery methods that provide stability and durability. At the same time, even stable mRNA treatments would likely require multiple doses, thus the delivery materials need to be safe for frequent use.

Nutcracker aims to provide semiconductor-like control over discovery and manufacturing capabilities for mRNA therapies. The company says its platform, called Automated controlled RNA, or Acorn, discovers new mRNA treatments in single-use self-contained biochips designed to produce lead candidates meeting specified properties.

Nutcracker says Acorn can also be configured for manufacturing, starting with a nucleic acid sequence of interest, producing mRNA therapies formulated as encapsulated nanoscale particles. The company says its process is completely automated and can produce therapies with less space and resources than conventional bioreactors.

Nutcracker calls its manufacturing process “GMP in a box,” with GMP referring to Good Manufacturing Practice, the pharmaceutical industry quality production standards. The company is focusing initially on mRNA for cancer treatments.

“RNA-based therapeutics are emerging as an important new class of medicines,” says Nutcracker Therapeutics co-founder and CEO Igor Khandros in a company statement. “We founded Nutcracker based on our conviction that to fulfill the promise of RNA therapeutics, we must meld the productivity of RNA biology with semiconductor-like development and manufacturing controls and discipline. Our platform can efficiently create both patient-specific and broadly applicable RNA medicines and enables the rapid scaling of GMP manufacturing. ”

Nutcracker Therapeutics is raising $60 million in its second venture funding round. The round is led by life science and biotechnology investor ARCH Venture Partners in Chicago, with participation from Bluebird Ventures. According to Crunchbase, Nutcracker previously raised $10 million in March 2019.

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