RIBOZYME AND OMICS
Rznomics Inc. (https://www.cortellis.com/intelligence/qsearch/rznomics) recently secured ₩37.2 billion (US$30 million) from private investors and the Korean government in a series C financing round. “The $30 million series C proceeds will be used for the phase I/IIa clinical trial of RZ-001 (https://www.cortellis.com/intelligence/qsearch/RZ-001), and the additional R&D costs for candidates RZ-004 (https://www.cortellis.com/intelligence/qsearch/RZ-004) and RZ-003 (https://www.cortellis.com/intelligence/qsearch/RZ-003),” Rznomics CEO Seong-wook Lee told BioWorld.
RZ-001, Rznomics’ lead candidate, is an investigational RNA replacement enzyme vector-based cancer therapy to treat hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). A phase I/IIa trial of the candidate is planned for initiation in the second half of 2022. “It will be a dose escalation/expansion study, to be held at major study sites in South Korea including the Samsung Medical Center. The clinical trial’s expected milestone dates are to be determined,” said Lee. He hailed the financing as one of great value in “the depressed bio-market atmosphere.
” RZ-004 is a preclinical gene therapy candidate targeting retinitis pigmentosa. The IND for that indication is to be submitted to FDA in the first half of 2023. RZ-003 is the company’s adeno-associated virus (AAV) delivered candidate, intended for the potential treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Also in Rznomics’ pipeline is in RZ-002, another adenovirus candidate for glioblastoma. An IND submission for the telomerase reverse transcriptase targeting candidate planned for this year.
“Rznomics is planning to submit the IND to the FDA for RZ-004 in 2023 and for RZ-001 with the indication of glioblastoma in 2023,” said Lee. The most recent financing brings Rznomics’ cumulative investment total to date to ₩60.9 billion. Investors in the RNA-focused biopharma include the Korea Development Bank, AON investment, Partners Investment, IBK Capital Corp, Quad Ventures, SBI Investment Co. Ltd., Shinhan Venture Investment Co. Ltd., and UTC Investment Co. Ltd.
“The investment was made by the consideration of specialty and capabilities of trans-splicing ribozyme in RNA based treatments, competitive pipelines, and the high level of R&D data,” said Byung-kyu Ahn, the director of AON Investment, a new participant that joined in the series C.
“After the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs and expectations of gene therapy have increased. I believed Rznomics showed capabilities of satisfying the global needs. In contrast to the CRISPR-Cas9 system that causes permanent gene editing, trans-splicing ribozyme technology induces gene editing at the RNA level,” said Junsoo Kim, a managing director in Partners Investment.
Partners investment has been onboard with Rznomics from its series A to C financing rounds.
Government funding, IPO
In addition, the company's work has since been recognized by the South Korean government as several government funding projects, including the development of RZ-004 as a 'national new drug development project'. The recognitions won it a separate cumulative ₩8 billion in research funding.
“Overall, the environment for the development of gene therapy in South Korea is pretty active and bright. We have received proper support and reviews from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and with that, also have plans to develop our pipelines globally,” he added.
That’s not all the financing news that Rznomics has for now. The company is currently busy preparing the evaluation of its technology to be included as a technology specially listed company. It is also exploring the potential for an IPO as a technology specially listed company, possibly for the second half of 2023. The last time (https://www.bioworld.com/articles/499139-rznomics-on-track-for-adenoviruses-development-plan) BioWorld spoke to the company in 2020, it was using Cologne, Germany based-Cevec Pharmaceuticals GmbH’s technology to manufacture adenoviruses. “The contract has been signed and we have completed the GMP production for RZ-001,” said Lee.
Rznomics is heavily invested in its trans-splicing ribozyme platform, technology designed to remove disease-causing target RNA and trans-ligates, as well as opportunities to out-license the technology to global partners.