Cydan, the company that founded Imara — which developed a sickle cell disease (SCD) treatment candidate, IMR-687 — has raised $34 million in new financing to advance innovative therapies for patients living with SCD and other rare diseases.
Cydan, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, identifies promising scientific findings and drug candidates and advances them into clinical development. Cydan also establishes independent companies to promote selected therapies through clinical development and regulatory approval.
In this round of financing, a new investor, Longitude Capital, joined existing investors New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Pfizer Venture Investments, Alexandria Venture Investments and Lundbeckfond Ventures.
“Our initial financing enabled us to validate our model,” Dr. Chris Adams, co-founder and CEO of Cydan, said in a press release. “In less than four years, we evaluated numerous diseases and multiple therapeutic approaches to successfully launch two well-funded companies that are quickly advancing promising new treatments for patients in need.”
Imara, launched in 2016, is one of Cydan’s spinoffs. It is currently developing IMR-687, a novel candidate to treat SCD. Imara recently completed a Phase 1 clinical trial (NCT02998450) evaluating the drug’s safety and how it behaves in the bodies of healthy volunteers.
In May 2017, Imara announced that IMR-687 received rare pediatric disease designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat SCD. It previously received FDA’s orphan drug designation.
IMR-687 is a highly potent, selective inhibitor of phosphodiesterase-9 (PDE9) in blood cells. The drug reportedly reduces both red blood cell sickling and blockage of blood vessels, the underlying causes of SCD.
Previous studies on animal models have suggested that IMR-687 increases fetal globin, the type of hemoglobin found in human fetuses, and has the ability to bind oxygen with higher affinity than adult hemoglobin. This increase reduces red blood cell sickling and the death of red blood cells.
Imara plans to initiate a Phase 2a study in adults with SCD by the end of 2017 and a Phase 2 study in children next year.