Woodland Hills-based late-stage clinical immunotherapy company Acelyrin Inc., which has amassed more than $550 million in funding in less than two years, has acquired Bethesda, Maryland-based immunotherapy company ValenzaBio Inc.
Financial terms of the all-stock transaction that was announced on Jan. 5 were not disclosed.
Separately, Acelyrin released results from a clinical trial of its lead immunotherapy drug candidate, izokibep, to treat a rare autoimmune condition, showing positive response to treatment with no observable increase in infections.
Acelyrin was founded in late 2020 and immediately set about raising substantial funds for acquisitions and licensing of new immunotherapy technologies: $8 million in series A funding in December 2020 – just weeks after its founding – followed by a series B round of $250 million in November 2021 and $300 million in series C funding this past September – an astounding $558 million in 21 months.
It is from that acquisition war chest that Acelyrin was able to buy ValenzaBio and its drug portfolio. ValenzaBio has a drug in an early-phase study to treat thyroid eye disease and another drug in pre-clinical trial phase to treat chronic urticaria, a skin allergy condition.
“Since ValenzaBio was founded in 2019, the team has collectively identified and developed treatment candidates for a variety of underserved indications in a capital-efficient fashion,” John Doux, ValenzaBio’s board chair, said in the announcement.
Doux, who is also an analyst at Palo Alto Investors and a board-certified dermatologist, will join Acelryin’s board.
Acelyrin chief executive Shao-Lee Lin said the acquisition of ValenzaBio will add therapies to its portfolio “which we believe similarly have the potential to offer clinically meaningful, differentiated benefits relative to current treatment options.”
Lin added that this is likely to be the first of many similar transactions in the months and years to come.
“We are pleased to execute this transformative acquisition as we continue building Acelyrin into a leading immunology company, and we will continue to look for additional ‘diamond in the rough’ opportunities as we pursue the acquisition, development and delivery of transformative medicines for patients,” she said.
As for Acelyrin’s lead immunotherapy drug, izokibep, the company announced preliminary results from a Phase 2b/3 study that’s considered an interim step between the standard Phase 2 clinical trial that determines the ideal dosing parameters and safety profiles of a drug and the full-scale Phase 3 clinical trial study that compares the drug to existing standard treatment across a wide population sample.
Acelyrin is aiming to use izokibep in patients with moderate-to-severe hidradenitis suppurativa, an autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation of the exocrine glands and leading to skin abscesses, pain, scarring, and malodor. Izokibep is about one-tenth the size of a monoclonal antibody that has been a traditional treatment for the disease; this allows for higher concentrations to be delivered on a more-targeted basis.
The company had previously tested for the effectiveness of the drug in treating patients with psoriatic arthritis.
“In addition to the data previously presented in psoriatic arthritis, these results in a second disease indication further support the hypothesis that the high potency and small size of izokibep could lead to clinically meaningful and differentiated impact in multiple diseases, especially those with difficult-to-treat tissues,” Lin said in this announcement. “Based on these data, we are pleased to prioritize development of izokibep in HS, potentially accelerating its availability to patients.”