Rubius Therapeutics said today it has raised $120 million in a “highly” oversubscribed private financing to support its development of red-cell therapeutics for multiple therapeutic areas, with plans to launch clinical trials in humans next year.

Rubius said it will use proceeds of the financing toward accelerating its Red-Cell Therapeutics™ (RCT™) product portfolio, expanding its management team, and advancing its red-cell therapeutics into the clinic. The company has developed technology to grow, genetically engineer, and mature long-circulating red cell therapeutics, saying it has generated more than 200 prototypes to date.

The RCT platform is designed to allow Rubius to express enzymes, agonists, antagonists, binders, and combinations in their natural conformation on or inside of red cells. The company says RCTs exhibit fundamentally unique biology and have been engineered to replace missing enzymes for patients living with a variety of rare diseases, to kill tumors, and upregulate or downregulate the immune system to treat both cancer and autoimmune disorders.

The advantages of the allogeneic, off-the-shelf RCTs over other therapies, according to Rubius, include immuno-privileged presentation of proteins within or on the red cell, high target avidity and affinity resulting in highly potent and selective therapies, and long circulation half-life.

Rubius said the financing followed its achieving key scientific and manufacturing milestones that included the clinical-scale production of cultured red cells in bioreactors and the generation of preclinical proof-of-concept data for several lead programs.

Rubius’ lead RCT programs include enzyme-replacement therapies as well as therapies targeting solid tumors and hematological cancers—though the company adds that it has shown RCTs to be capable of being applied in additional therapeutic areas, such as autoimmune disease, infectious disease, metabolic disease, and rare diseases, including hemophilia.

“With this financing, Rubius is well positioned to focus on the continued development of our platform to advance a broad range of therapeutic candidates that have the potential to make a significant difference in the lives of patients,” Rubius President Torben Straight Nissen, Ph.D., said in a statement.

Rubius was founded and launched in 2014, and funded since, by Flagship VentureLabs®, the innovation foundry of Flagship Pioneering, which in December 2016 changed its name from Flagship Ventures.

Flagship Pioneering significantly increased its investment in the latest financing, joined by undisclosed large institutional investors, Rubius said.

“The team at Rubius has made great strides over the past three years and we are pleased to support the company’s continued growth,” Noubar Afeyan, CEO of Flagship Pioneering and cofounder of Rubius. “This new financing, together with a leadership team with unparalleled expertise, positions Rubius to deliver on the promise of the RCT platform and bring transformative therapies to patients.”

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