Rigontec GmbH raises €9.45m in a first closing of a Series A financing round to advance RNA-based immunotherapeutics for cancer and viral diseases
Bonn, Germany. 14th October 2014 – Rigontec GmbH, a privately held biopharmaceutical company developing RNA-based immunotherapeutics for the treatment of cancer and viral diseases, announces the first closing of its Series A financing round, raising €9.45 million. The round was co-led by Wellington Partners and Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund, and included NRW Bank and High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF).
Rigontec is developing synthetic ligands of a novel receptor of the innate immune system, Retinoic acid Inducible Gene I (RIG-I), which recognizes viral RNA. RNA motifs that activate RIG-I promote the destruction of diseased cells and the induction of a lasting immune memory thereby treating and preventing recurrence of disease.
Rigontec’s lead compound ImOl100, a proprietary first-in-class product targeting RIG-I, is currently being evaluated for development in several cancer types including melanoma and prostate cancer. ImOl100 is a chemically synthesised mimic of the natural ligand of RIG-I with improved safety and drug like properties. In various preclinical models, ImOl100 has demonstrated substantial tumor regression and systemic anti-tumor activity including long-term protection against tumor rechallenge. Rigontec’s technology also allows the design of pipeline candidates with additional gene silencing and inhibitory activities further broadening the applicability of this ground breaking new class of drugs in the area of oncology and viral infections.
Rigontec was launched in January 2014 as a spin-out of the Institute for Clinical Chemistry and Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Bonn, Germany. The Company’s co-founders, Prof. Gunther Hartmann and Prof. Veit Hornung, are internationally highly renowned scientific leaders in the area of innate immune recognition of viral nucleic acids (RNA sensing) and discovered 3pRNA as the ligand for RIG-I. The Company has access to the excellent infrastructure of the University Hospital Bonn, which includes state-of-the art pre-clinical research facilities and a clinical trial unit.
The founding management team is led by Annegret de Baey-Diepolder, an experienced investor and start-up manager, and Christine Schuberth-Wagner, who is in charge of the scientific developments at Rigontec. Prof. Hartmann and Prof. Hornung will stay closely involved with the company as advisors, and Prof. Hartmann will represent the founders on the Board of Directors. On the closing of this funding round, Regina Hodits from Wellington Partners and Marcus Kostka from Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund will join the Rigontec Board of Directors.
Gunther Hartmann, co-founder, said: “We are very excited to see that the RIG-I technology which was developed and has matured in our lab over the last eight years is now being taken on into clinical development. Our RIG-I ligands are an innovative class of compounds which directly target the molecular heart of tumor cells. RIG-I activation drives the tumor microenvironment to become an immunogenic tissue – essentially turning tumor tissue into a therapeutic tumor vaccine. This is a potent therapeutic principle by itself and it has the potential to synergistically complement the molecular principle of immune checkpoint inhibitors.”
Annegret de Baey-Diepolder, co-founder and interim CEO of Rigontec, said: “I am delighted that Rigontec has secured significant funding from experienced life sciences investors to support the development of this exciting new business. We believe that our proprietary technology, based on world-class research, has the potential to create a new generation of immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer and viral diseases.”
Regina Hodits, General Partner at Wellington Partners, commented: “Rigontec has a truly different approach to cancer immunotherapy based on ground-breaking science in the up-and-coming field of RNA sensing. This forms a solid basis for developing medicines which may allow for both near-term efficacy and also potentially long-term protection. These could make a significant difference to cancer patients and patients suffering from chronic viral infections. We are very pleased to be supporting Rigontec in striving to become a leading player in this exciting space.”
Marcus Kostka, Director at Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund, added: “The team at Rigontec has made excellent progress in the short time since founding to build a strong foundation for the further development of their lead candidate and a pipeline of products based the Rigontec technology. We look forward to working with the Company as it strives to fulfil the potential of this novel approach for the benefit of patients.”
Dr. Annegret de Baey-Diepolder
Citigate Dewe Rogerson
Dr. Chris Gardner / Dr. Mark Swallow
Tel: +44 (0) 207 638 9571
Notes to Editors
About Wellington Partners
Wellington Partners is one of the most successful pan-European venture capital firms. With some €850 million under management and offices in London, Munich, Palo Alto and Zurich, the firm invests into companies throughout Europe that have the potential to become global leaders, in the areas of Digital Media, Software, Resource Efficiency and Life Sciences.
Since 1998, Wellington Partners has invested in more than 100 European companies, including now publicly traded Actelion, Evolva, Genticel, Implanet, Noemalife, Oxford Immunotec, Supersonic Imagine, Wavelight (acquired by Alcon) and XING and privately held companies like AyoxxA, Grandis (acquired by Novartis), immatics, invendo medical, MPM Medical, MTM Laboratories (acquired by Roche), NEUWAY Pharma, Oxagen, Rigontec, Quanta, Sapiens, Sensimed, Symetis, Adconion, Alando (acquired by eBay), Ciao (acquired by Microsoft), Spotify, Hailo, Livebookings and Qype (acquired by Yelp).
About Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund
The Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund was formed in March 2010 to invest in biotechnology and start-up companies to help drive innovation in medical science. Our sole focus is to search for significant enhancements in patient care through innovative and pioneering science. Our investments aim to extend the current therapeutic area focus of Boehringer Ingelheim and demonstrate our commitment to investigate new treatment modalities and technologies, beyond our existing landscape, for the potential future benefit of patients.
The Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund has an initial commitment of €100 million and we prefer to invest in early stage companies, i.e. in seed and series A rounds. Beyond capital investment, we intend to take an active role with our portfolio companies – delivering significant added value through our own extensive drug discovery, scientific and managerial expertise.
So far the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund has invested in 14 companies and already achieved one successful exit, i.e. Okairos AG.
For more information, please visit www.boehringer-ingelheim-venture.com
NRW.BANK is the development bank for the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. It
supports its owner – the State of North Rhine-Westphalia – in fulfilling its tasks, especially in the fields of structural, economic, social and housing policy. NRW.BANK pools the promotion and development programmes of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Federal Republic of Germany and the European Union and combines them with its own equity and debt products and advisory services. It offers the full range of financial products in three areas of promotional competence, namely “Seed & Growth”, “Housing & Living”, and “Development & Protection”. Competition- wise, NRW.BANK operates in a strictly neutral manner as a partner of banks and savings banks.
About High-Tech Gruenderfonds (HTGF)
High-Tech Gruenderfonds invests in young, high potential high-tech start-ups. The seed financing provided is designed to enable start-ups to take an idea through prototyping and to market launch. Typically, High-Tech Gruenderfonds invests EUR 500,000 in the seed stage, with the potential for up to a total of EUR 2 million per portfolio company in follow-on financing. Investors in this public/private partnership include the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy, the KfW Banking Group, as well as strategic corporate investors including ALTANA, BASF, Bayer, B. Braun, Robert Bosch, CEWE, Daimler, Deutsche Post DHL, Deutsche Telekom, Evonik, Lanxess, media + more venture Beteiligungs GmbH & Co. KG, METRO, Qiagen, RWE Innogy, SAP, Tengelmann and Carl Zeiss. High-Tech Gruenderfonds has about EUR 576 million under management in two funds (EUR 272 million HTGF I, EUR 304 million HTGF II).