SemaThera, a Montreal-based biotechnology startup, announced it has raised $2.6 million to prepare the company’s lead drug, ST-102, for clinical trials as an intravitreal injection in diabetic macular edema.
This latest round of financing was backed by Senju Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, out of Japan, and Canadian life sciences VC firm AmorChem, which launched and funded the startup with $1 million in seed financing last year.
AmorChem is a Montreal-based venture capital firm that invests in life science projects from Quebec-based universities and research centres. The main limited partners of the fund are Investissement-Québec, FIER Partenaires, Fonds de solidarité, FTQ and Merck & Co. It’s managed by Canadian life sciences venture capital firm GeneChem, which started back in 1997. AmorChem launched a seed-stage biotechnology investment fund, AmorChem II, at an initial capitalization of $44.2 million last December. That brings the total amount under management to $86 million.
SemaThera is a Montréal biotechnology company focused on the development of novel “SEMA 3A TRAP” inhibitors for the treatment of ocular diseases such as diabetic macular edema.
“Diabetic macular edema is a common feature of retinopathies and affects a fourth of diabetic patients,”said Dr. Elizabeth Douville, Managing Partner at AmorChem at the time of seed-stage funding. “It’s the most prevalent ophthalmologic condition faced by diabetic patients and the leading cause of vision loss in adults of working age. Today, up to 40 per cent of DME patients are poor-responders to anti-VEGF therapies and intravitreal injections of SEMA 3A inhibitor is clearly seen as a promising option.”
As part of the financing, SemaThera has signed an exclusive licensing deal with Senju to develop and market ST-102 in Japan and China. Senju will assume all clinical development costs and regulatory fees related to China and Japan, and in exchange Senju will pay SemaThera milestone payments with a total in eight-digit, and a two-digit percent royalty on sales. Senju will also retain exclusive rights to other indications in China and Japan.
SemaThera presents a new therapeutic approach, which is a bispecific biological trap, inhibiting both semaphorin 3A (SEMA 3A) and vascular endothelial grwoth factor (VEGF).
“The compiled preclinical package demonstrated that SEMA 3A inhibition is key to treat the pathology at an early stage, where expression of SEMA 3A is significantly high and VEGF is at normal levels”, said Mitsuyoshi Azuma, Senior Corporate Officer, Head of Laboratory of Ocular Science at Senju.
“In addition to its seed investment in SemaThera, Senju is a strategic ophthalmology-focused partner for SemaThera, in view of the clinical development of ST-102 in China and Japan. An increasing prevalence of diabetes is occurring in these two countries where DME cases are on the rise” said Elizabeth Douville, Founder and Managing Partner at AmorChem.
SemaThera holds exclusive rights to various SEMA 3A based technologies, where semaphorin 3A is involved in neo-angiogenesis, senescence and neuronal regeneration. Such technologies may also become future therapies in cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.