Taking the “Gene Pill” to the Clinic

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Taking the “Gene Pill” to the Clinic

shutterstock_118048909Forbion Capital Partners, a Dutch life-sciences venture capital firm, has announced that it has led the closing of a €9.6 million series B financing round for enGene, Inc. with a syndicate of leading life-science investors. Sander van Deventer from Forbion Capital Partners has joined the enGene Board of Directors. Other members of the syndicate included existing shareholder, Merck Lumira Biosciences Fund (Canada), and two new investors, Fonds de Solidarité FTQ (Canada) and InBio Ventures (Luxembourg).

enGene Inc. focuses on the discovery and development of novel DNA-based therapeutics using its proprietary delivery platform. It has optimized a carrier that can deliver DNA to the gut, effectively turning the gut into a protein ‘factory.’  The delivery technology enables highly efficient, non-toxic, repeated dosing via enema. It is further being developed into an orally available solid dosage form.

Proceeds from the series B financing round will be used to propel enGene’s lead product EG-12 into phase I/II clinical trials. EG-12 consists of carrier-DNA complexes that provide gut-localized expression of IL-10 and is being developed for the treatment of ulcerative colitis (UC). IL-10 is a well-known anti-inflammatory cytokine and persons with dysfunctional IL-10 action are presented with severe early-onset UC.

In addition, enGene will finalize the formulation of its carrier to create a ‘Gene Pill’ that turns the gut into an internal ‘bioreactor’ of a wide range of therapeutic proteins — including those that currently have to be administered by injection or infusion.

“While historically, there has been significant interest in the delivery of RNA in all its forms, non-viral delivery of DNA has surprisingly received little attention,” said Sander van Deventer, Managing Partner at Forbion Capital Partners and a gastroenterologist by training. “We have been following enGene’s progress closely and believe that the technology has now matured to a stage where it is ready for the clinic. Given the strong genetic relation between IL-10 and UC and the excellent pre-clinical data, we expect EG-12 to provide significant benefit to patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The development of a broadly applicable ‘Gene Pill’ is particularly enticing.”

Anthony Cheung, Chief Executive Officer of enGene, comments: “We are pleased to have Forbion Capital Partners lead this Series B round to support commercialization of enGene’s innovative product for IBD and the further development of a platform technology for delivering genes to the gut. Forbion has an impressive track record in building several pioneering gene therapy companies in Europe and the US.”

He added: “The financing round has also brought significant strategic expertise to enGene by having Dr Sander van Deventer join the Board of Directors. Dr van Deventer is a world-renowned physician scientist in the areas of IBD and gene therapy. He played a critical role in developing Remicade, the first biological treatment for IBD and he. was also responsible for helping to bring Glybera, the first approved gene therapy product in the West, to the market.  We welcome him to the Board.”