A District biotechnology company that uses gene therapy to treat diseases of the central nervous system has raised $30 million from investors to usher its drugs through clinical trials, executives said Wednesday.
Regenxbio uses a novel technology that was created to introduce healthy genes into the bodies of patients with genetic disorders. The technology removes the DNA of a virus and replaces it with healthy genes. Doctors then inject the virus into a patient and allow it to infiltrate cells and tissue as it normally would.
The company will initially focus on diseases that impact the nervous system and eyes, such as age-related macular degeneration, but the treatment could be used to address as many as 50 different diseases, said chief executive Ken Mills.
The technology was developed at the University of Pennsylvania and commercialized by Regenxbio in 2009. The company was formed by FoxKiser, a District-based life science consulting business, specifically to license the technology.
Regenxbio has licensed the technology to academic institutions and emerging life sciences companies, but plans to launch clinical trials of its own, Mills said.
The deal comes after investments in Washington-area biotechnology companies slowed significantly during 2014, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.
Area biotechnology companies collected $77.3 million over the course of the year. That is the lowest amount since 1999 and down 79 percent compared with $368.7 million raised in 2013, according to the report. The data was provided by Thomson Reuters.
This is the third round of financing for the company, which previously raised $15 million from investors.
Venrock and Brookside Capital led the latest investment with participation from Deerfield Management and an unnamed new investor, the company said. FoxKiser and Fidelity BioSciences, which invested in Regenxbio, also contributed to the round.
Mills said the company expects to grow its staff from 10 people to 30 over the next year and plans to relocate to Maryland’s Interstate 270 corridor in the coming months.
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