Austin Biotech Mirna Therapeutics Nabs Nearly $42M in Series D Funding

Xconomy Texas — 

[Updated 4/20/15 5:01 pm. See below.] Mirna Therapeutics, an Austin,TX, biotech company has raised $41.8 million in a Series D financing to further develop its immuno-oncology drugs.

The financing round was led by Baxter Ventures, which was joined by new investors including Eastern Capital, Sante Ventures, Morningside Ventures, Rock Springs Capital, and Celgene. Existing investors Sofinnova Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Pfizer Ventures, Osage University Partners, Correlation Ventures, and others also took part.

The funding will enable Mirna to advance its lead microRNA therapeutic product candidate, MRX34, into Phase 1b and Phase 2 trials in 2016. These microRNAs are very short strands of RNA that can act like genomic master switches, each turning off multiple genes at the same time. In 2013, the company raised nearly $50 million to develop these drugs.

[Comment from Paul Lammers added.] Those molecules, which are naturally occurring in human cells are tumor-suppressants that “make sure that cells don’t go off the rails and express cancer,” says Paul Lammers, Mirna’s CEO. “This is lower in cancer patients; we’re bringing something back that nature is missing.”

Mirna started its first clinical trial two years ago, testing the drug’s ability to treat primary liver cancer or metastatic cancer that has spread to the liver. About 20,000 people died from the disease in the United States in 2010, according to the National Cancer Institute.

That phase 1 clinical trial is being held in San Antonio, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, and Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scarsdale Health in Arizona with at least 48 patients. About 100 stage 4 patients are enrolled in the study which is expected to conclude by the end of the year, Lammers says. Mirna says it will evaluate further development possibilities following the completion of that phase 1 trial, which includes patients with liver cancers, other solid tumors, and hematological malignancies.

The company is primarily looking at treating liver cancer but is evaluating the drug’s effects on other cancers as well. “It’s all about the data,” Lammers says. “We try to generate a set of data that would help us to decide what is the optimal clinical developmental strategy going forward.”

Lammers also says that the company says it also plans to use the new money to further develop a second “miRNA” drug candidate into clinical trials.