Regulus Therapeutics Follows Through on Fundraising, Independence Plans

3/4/09

Regulus Therapeutics, the fledgling biotech firm developing microRNA-based drugs, wasn’t kidding when it told Xconomy earlier this year that it planned to gain a more independent corporate charter and raise a significant round of financing. The Carlsbad, CA-based startup says this morning that it has raised $20 million in a Series A round of financing; Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Isis Pharmaceuticals each contributed $10 million in the deal.

Regulus—which was formed in September 2007 as a joint venture of Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam (NASDAQ:ALNY) and Carlsbad-based Isis (NASDAQ:ISIS)—has also changed its corporate status from an LLC to C-corporation to enable the firm to raise money from other investors down the road. Luke wrote about Regulus’s designs to become independent of Alnylam and Isis back in January, after he caught wind of the plan at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

“This equity financing, when combined with last year’s significant [$20 million] upfront payment made by GlaxoSmithKline as part of our partnership, gives Regulus cash that we expect will last at least through 2011,” Kleanthis Xanthopoulos, CEO of Regulus, said in a statement.

The firm’s partnership with London-based drug giant Glaxo provided additional validation of the startup’s work toward developing a host of treatments for heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses by targeting microRNAs. MicroRNAs are short chains of nucleotides that can impact whole networks of genes simultaneously.

Regulus operates with intellectual property from Alnylam, a leading developer of RNA-interference drugs, and Isis, which is commercializing antisense RNA drugs. Luke talked recently to Alnylam CEO John Maraganore about the success of the Regulus spinoff and Alnylam’s desire to repeat the process of launching new companies to commercialize technologies that are related to, but different from, RNAi, a technique for turning off specific genes one at a time.

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