For its $92 million series B round, Tenaya sought a syndicate willing to invest enough that the company could advance heart disease programs from multiple modalities toward the clinic simultaneously.
The company's regenerative medicine and gene therapy programs could enter first-in-human studies as soon as late 2021, CEO Faraz Ali told BioCentury.
Nearly three years after Tenaya Therapeutics Inc. raised a $50 million series A round, with the lion's share coming from The Column Group, the company has turned to Casdin Capital, GV and undisclosed private investors to flesh out the series B syndicate (see "Cardiac Conversion"; "Building Tenaya").
Casdin, the round's leader, offered the company "smart, patient capital," Ali said. The firm preferred to avoid constraining Tenaya's resources, and invested enough to fund multiple projects past IND in about two years, if all goes as planned.
"We would have to raise money again to get into the clinic."
Unlike some companies that use one platform to treat multiple therapeutic areas, Tenaya is designed to exploit three platforms to treat heart disease. On its regenerative medicine track, the company is using viral vectors to deliver transcription factors that convert cardiac fibroblasts to cardiomyocytes, thereby restoring heart muscle following damage sustained during a myocardial infarction.
Ali said the next year's worth of scientific understanding will guide its decision-making process with regard to its first clinical steps in regenerative medicine. The company could aim for either an acute or chronic post-MI indication, or develop a treatment for patients who are in severe decline and are candidates for a left ventricular assist device.
On another track, Tenaya is developing gene therapies for heart disease. Although the company's first two projects are starting in genetically defined cardiomyopathies, both could also address broader populations, including heart failure with reduced ejection fraction. The company has yet to disclose any targets, but it hopes to have first-in-class treatments. "The selection of targets in gene therapy for heart disease is not obvious," Ali said.
Tenaya is also using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to develop heart disease models for multiple purposes. The company intends to derive targets and screen compounds using the models, as well as enrich clinical trials by identifying potential responders. The company is developing artificial intelligence tools for imaging and high-throughput screening in this area; Ali said GV's computational expertise will provide an assist.
The precision iPSC approach in particular could lend itself to business development. Ali said any of the three platforms could lead to partnerships, perhaps as the next logical step for financing Tenaya beyond the series B round.
"We would have to raise money again to get into the clinic," Ali said. "Our first choice would be business development." He added that the choice of Casdin, which invests in both public and private rounds, as the series B leader was made with an eye on a potential listing as well, although Tenaya could raise another private round.