ViaNautis raises $25M to advance genetic therapy delivery platform

polyNaut system aims for more precision in getting treatments into tissues

Andrea Lobo, PhD avatar

by Andrea Lobo, PhD |

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A hand holds up a coin against a backdrop of dollar signs and packets of money.

ViaNautis has secured $25 million in financing to advance work with polyNaut, its delivery platform for genetic and other treatments.

The platform is designed to deliver a range of therapies into difficult-to-penetrate tissues. According to the company, the money raised will help to support polyNaut’s use in the “rapid development” of new treatments for cystic fibrosis (CF) and other complex diseases with unmet medical needs.

“This successful fundraise empowers us to expedite the deployment of our proprietary polyNaut technology, which offers unparalleled access to the brain and other tissues, presenting significant opportunities to address both CNS [central nervous system; includes the brain and spinal cord] and lung diseases,” Francesca Crawford, PhD, ViaNautis’s CEO, said in a company press release.

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polyNaut intends for effective delivery of range of genetic treatments

The polyNaut technology allows for precise and targeted delivery of a wide range of genetic molecules, such as plasmid DNA, messenger RNA (mRNA), small interference RNA (siRNA), or antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs).

A plasmid is a small circular DNA molecule; mRNA is a template derived from DNA that guides the production of a protein; siRNA interferes with the activity of genes, inducing mRNA degradation; and ASOs are lab-made molecules designed to be complementary to a specific region in mRNA, altering protein production.

To do this, the technology uses nanoparticles with a stable structure that is protein resistant and with an enhanced ability to penetrate cells. These tiny particles may carry multiple cargo, whose release into cells is triggered by changes in pH, a measure of acidity or alkalinity. The nanoparticles also are covered with highly selective ligands (binding molecules) for precision delivery, the company states.

“As the cell and gene therapy field gains momentum, it is evident that safe and precise delivery remains a key bottleneck in developing new therapeutics,” said Owen Smith, a partner at 4BIO Capital, a venture capital firm that was one of the leaders of the Series A funding round. “ViaNautis presents an excellent opportunity in the world of genetic therapies by enabling the delivery of cargoes to otherwise inaccessible sites … in the body.”

CF is caused by mutations in the CFTR gene, leading to the production of abnormally thick and sticky mucus that accumulates in various organs — the lungs, pancreas, liver, and intestines are common — and is responsible for a range of disease symptoms.

ViaNautis’ pipeline includes VNS002, supported by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, with a focus on determining optimal formulation candidates for delivery to the airways.

“We are also proud to be working with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation on one of our key pipeline programs, underscoring our commitment to advancing treatments for people with cystic fibrosis,” Crawford said.

Financing proceeds also will be used to establish lab facilities and expand the company’s scientific and management teams.

The round also was led by BGF and UCB Ventures, with participation of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Eli Lilly and Company, and existing investors.