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Lilly, Arch join Deerfield in backing new gene therapy biotech Jaguar

Biotech startup Jaguar Gene Therapy has raised $139 million in new funding from high-profile backers Eli Lilly and ARCH Venture Partners, which joined venture founder Deerfield Management in closing a Series B round announced Tuesday.

Jaguar has moved quickly, assembling a team and building out a pipeline over the past year or so with $40 million in initial funding from Deerfield.

The new fundraising should help the company progress further and could even position it for an initial public offering in the future.

In an email, Joe Nolan, Jaguar's CEO, said the company would leave "all options open in terms of financing."

At $139 million, Jaguar's Series B ranks as one of the larger venture rounds for a preclinical gene or cell therapy biotech at this stage. For some comparison, Taysha Gene Therapies, a company launched in 2019 that went public last fall, raised $95 million in Seres B funding in August. (On Monday, Taysha acquired rights to a clinical-stage gene therapy for giant axonal neuropathy.)

Record levels of funding are flowing into cell and gene therapy companies like Jaguar and Taysha. Last year, nearly $20 billion was invested in companies in the sector, more than 50% higher than the previous record set in 2018, according to numbers compiled by the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine.

More than $5.5 billion of the investment came via venture funding, leading to eye-popping figures for companies like Sana Biotechnology and Elevate Bio. Sana also raised $588 million in February in one of biotech's biggest IPOs and the largest initial stock offering of any gene and cell therapy developer since 2018, according to data compiled by BioPharma Dive.

Alongside Lilly and ARCH, which drew on its new biotech Fund XI, new investors in Jaguar included Goldman Sachs and the Nolan Fund, the investment fund of Jaguar's chairman Sean Nolan.

Jaguar's gene therapies are based on an adeno-associated virus serotype commonly used to deliver gene-based medicines. While galactosemia, a rare condition linked to an inborn error of metabolism, is a typical disease target for a gene therapy company, Jaguar's plans to develop treatments for the genetic causes of autism spectrum disorder and Type 1 diabetes are more unorthodox.

"We're thinking bigger in terms of size of patient populations, and going where gene therapy hasn't gone before," Sean Nolan, who serves as executive chairman, told BioPharma Dive in February.

Some of the funding will also go to Axovia Therapeutics, a majority-owned subsidiary of Jaguar that is developing a gene therapy for a life-threatening neurometabolic condition called Bardet-Biedl syndrome.

Note: This story has been updated with additional information sent to BioPharma Dive from Jaguar Gene Therapy.

Published April 13, 2021 11:15 a.m. AST

By Ned Pagliarulo@NedPagliarulo

BioPharma Dive

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