| March 26, 2019

Imara gets $63million to pursue sickle cell disease treatment development

Anca Spanu

Anca's career in journalism spans over 2 decades. She has served as staff writer, editor and deputy chief editor at... Anca's career in journalism spans over 2 decades. She has served as staff writer, editor and deputy chief editor at various media outlets all over the world. At Healthcare Weekly, Anca writes about current events, innovations in the healthcare space and events/ conferences with a focus on investing & startups.
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Imara Inc., a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company trying to find a treatment for sickle cell disease (SCD) and other hemoglobinopathies, announced March 18th it has closed an oversubscribed $63 million Series B cross-over financing round.

New funds and new board members for Imara Inc.

Investors OrbiMed Advisors and Arix Bioscience plc co-led the series, which also included investment from RA Capital and Rock Springs Capital. Prior investors New Enterprise Associates, Pfizer Venture Investments, Lundbeckfonden Ventures, Bay City Capital, and Alexandria Venture Investments took part, as well.  

Arix committed to investing $15.0 million (£11.3 million) for a 10% stake on a fully diluted basis.

Some new people are joining Imara’s Board of Directors, in relation with the financing, including David Bonita M.D., a Partner at OrbiMed and Arix Bioscience’s Investment Director Mark Chin. Others,  John Cassidy, Ph.D., Investment Associate at Arix Bioscience and Matthew Hammond, Ph.D., Principal at RA Capital, will function as observers.

$31million Series A initial funding for Imara

Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Imara was launched in June 2016, after an 18-month diligence and de-risking scientific collaboration between orphan drug accelerator Cydan Development and H. Lundbeck A/S with $31million Series A initial funding from life science investors NEA, Pfizer Venture Investments, Lundbeckfond Ventures, Bay City Capital and Alexandria Venture Investments.

Rahul Ballal, formerly chief business officer at Northern Biologics and entrepreneur-in-residence at Versant Ventures, is now chief executive of Imara.

Imara is developing IMR-687, an oral, highly potent and selective phosphodiesterase 9 (PDE9) inhibitor developed to tackle the underlying causes of sickle cell disease.

Early clinical data suggests IMR-687, which is being tested in a global phase 2a study in adults with sickle cell disease, after a successful phase 1 trial, could improve health outcomes and possibly modify the disease’s pathology.

Unlike other drugs, IMR-687 works on both red and white blood cells.

What will the new funds be used for?

The newly obtained funds will serve to advance the company’s lead program with IMR-687, currently in a multi-national Phase 2a clinical trial, into later-stage clinical trials. The money will also allow for investments in the development of IMR-687 as a potential treatment for thalassemia, and expand the company’s pipeline. Sickle cell disease affects around 160,000 people in the US and Europe and many more in Africa and Asia.

“This is a transformative financing for Imara – one that will allow us to greatly expand our sickle cell disease clinical development, widen our reach into thalassemia, and build an exciting pipeline,” said Rahul D. Ballal, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Imara. “We are pleased to be working with leading investors who share our vision for creating a company that helps change the lives of patients living with SCD and other hemoglobinopathies. We look forward to our upcoming clinical data analyses, engaging our clinical investigators, and working closely with the SCD community to make a positive impact in this challenging disease.”

“Imara’s clinical candidate for sickle cell disease could represent a significant step forward in a treatment paradigm that’s been languishing for decades,” said David Bonita, M.D., Partner at OrbiMed Advisors. “By working on both the white-cell and red-cell aspects of the disease, we believe IMR-687 is poised to bring needed advancements to patients with SCD. We are pleased to invest in Imara and support expansion to new disease areas and pipeline efforts.”

Mark Chin, Investment Director at Arix Bioscience was also very pleased with the prospects saying, “Rahul and the growing executive team have impressed us with their focus on meaningful clinical development and deep engagement with the SCD community. This financing is an important milestone for Imara as it seeks to progress its treatments to patients. We are looking forward to working with the management team to build a leading company in the hemoglobinopathy space.”

About Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell disease is a rare, genetically inherited condition that alters hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout the body. The altered hemoglobin distorts red blood cells into a sickle, or crescent, shape. Painful episodes can occur when sickled red blood cells, which are stiff and inflexible, get stuck in small blood vessels. Tissues and organs are thus deprived of oxygen-rich blood, which can lead to a vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC), acute chest syndrome (ACS), and permanent damage to organs such as  liver, spleen, kidney, and brain.

About IMR-687

IMR-687 was designed to address the underlying pathology of sickle cell disease. An orally-administered, highly-potent and selective phosphodiesterase 9 (PDE9) inhibitor, IMR-687 is a potentially disease-modifying therapeutic for sickle cell disease as well as other hemoglobinopathies. Pre-clinical data demonstrate IMR-687 reduces both the sickling of red blood cells and blood vessel occlusion that cause debilitating pain, organ damage, and early mortality in affected patients. A Phase 1 clinical trial in healthy volunteers showed IMR-687 to be safe and well-tolerated. IMR-687 has been granted both U.S. Orphan Drug Designation and U.S. Rare Pediatric Designation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

About Imara

Imara Inc., is dedicated to developing novel therapeutics for patients with sickle cell disease and other hemoglobinopathies. Imara is currently developing IMR-687, a highly selective, potent small molecule inhibitor of PDE9, to treat patients with sickle cell disease. IMR-687 successfully completed a Phase 1 study in healthy volunteers and is under evaluation in a multi-national Phase 2a study in adult patients with sickle cell disease.


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