Seven months after Nimbus Therapeutics sold an experimental autoimmune disease medicine to Takeda Pharmaceutical for up to $6 billion, the Boston biotech said Wednesday it has raised $210 million in venture capital to advance its pipeline of drugs to combat other disorders, including cancer.
The private financing round, which was led by new investor GV (Google Ventures) and existing investors SR One and Atlas Venture, is among the bigger ones in biopharma worldwide this year. Venture funding in life sciences plunged in 2022 after the industry had a banner year in 2021, fueled by investor enthusiasm for pandemic-related vaccines and medicines.
Nimbus’s announcement followed a big business deal that the company closed in February. Takeda Pharmaceutical, the Japanese drug maker and largest biopharma employer in Massachusetts, agreed to pay Nimbus $4 billion upfront for a pill that Takeda believes could treat numerous autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, from psoriasis to inflammatory bowel disease. If that drug reaches certain development and regulatory goals, Takeda will pay Nimbus another $2 billion.
Since Nimbus was founded in 2009, the firm of about 80 employees has struck deals with several big drug companies, including Gilead Sciences, Celgene, Eli Lilly, and Genentech. The deal with Takeda stirred considerable interest in the latest fund-raising round, according to Nimbus’s chief executive, Jeb Keiper, who said his company had to turn away potential investors.
“It certainly speaks to the track record that Nimbus has generated,” Keiper said.
With the latest funding round, Nimbus has raised more than $600 million in private financing, according to the firm.
Often, promising privately held biotechs that raise a lot of venture capital and cut lucrative deals with drug companies are eager to trade on the public market. But the slump in the biotech sector has discouraged IPOs. Nimbus has no plans for an initial public offering “in the near term,” Keiper said, “but I would never say never.”
Nimbus plans to use the $210 million to advance its pipeline, including an immuno-oncology drug to treat solid cancer tumors. The drug removes biological blindfolds that stymie immune cells in certain cancers, enabling the immune system to recognize and attack tumors. The medicine generated encouraging results in animal studies and is being tested on patients in an early-stage clinical trial.
The biotech also plans to use the money to develop drugs for other disorders, including an undisclosed autoimmune disease.
“We’re thrilled to support Jeb Keiper and the team as they bring difficult-to-drug, high-impact targets within reach across a wide range of therapeutic areas,” said Krishna Yeshwant, general partner at GV.
From the start, Nimbus has designed its drugs on computers, an approach that has become more common in biopharma. The biotech, which moved from Cambridge to the Seaport District in November, has never had its own laboratories. Instead, it relies on computerized machine learning to discover medicines, and outsources preclinical lab experiments to private contractors.
The approach is particularly feasible given that Nimbus focuses on “small molecule” drugs, which make up 90 percent of the pharmaceutical market and include common remedies such as aspirin, penicillin, and antihistamines, as well as lesser-known drugs to combat serious illnesses.
Small molecule drugs have garnered less attention from biotechs in recent years than “biologics,” medicines that are manufactured or extracted from living organisms and consist of genetic materials or proteins. Biologics are more complex and less stable. They include revolutionary gene therapies that typically need to be administered through infusions or injections at a doctor’s office or a hospital. The most transformative biologics cost $1 million or more per patient.
Bruce Booth, a partner at Atlas Venture and chairman and cofounder of Nimbus, said the new financing will “advance the next breakthrough medicines from Nimbus’s portfolio.”
Previous Nimbus investors who contributed to the latest financing round include Bain Capital Life Sciences, Bill Gates, BVF Partners L.P., Lightstone Ventures, Pfizer Ventures, RA Capital Management, and SV Health Investors.
Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at email@example.com.