3D illustration of ribonucleic acid (RNA) strands
Credit: Christoph Burgstedt/Getty Images

RNA therapeutics biotech Switch Therapeutics came out of stealth mode this week announcing $52M in early funding to develop conditionally activated small interfering (CASi) RNA therapeutics.

Its scientists have created a “first-of-its kind” RNA interference (i) technology combined with nucleic acid nanotechnology that allows a therapy to be highly cell selective and also have efficient delivery, uptake, potency and duration of treatment effect.

The founders are hoping to overcome known limitations of antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) and siRNA therapies, which includes limited targeting abilities, distribution requiring lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) or targeting ligands, and limited potency.

“This is a transformational era for RNA medicines and we’re excited to apply our scientific discoveries in ways that could lead to new therapeutic breakthroughs, with the potential to treat some of the most devastating diseases,” said Dee Datta, co-founder and CEO of Switch, in a press statement.

“Our approach uses novel CASi molecules that are uniquely able to self-deliver efficiently, have high potency and long duration of effect. Additionally, we can design CASi molecules to activate only in select cells, allowing for expansion into targets that may require precision RNAi approaches.”

The company’s approach involves taking advantage of the properties of both single and double stranded RNA and includes a specific “sensor” in the therapy being developed to allow better targeting of specific cells in the body.

Switch was founded by Datta and Si-ping Han, now CTO, in 2020 and is based on many years of research on RNAi by Caltech professor Bill Goddard; City of Hope molecular and cellular biology leader John Rossi; discovery biology director Lisa Scherer, Harvard medical professor Saumya Das and Han.

Both Datta and Han previously worked with Goddard, who has helped set up a number of biotechs in the past. For example, Datta and Goddard founded Allozyne together, a biotech focusing on multiple sclerosis, which was broken up in 2014 after a failed merger with most of its patents and technologies subsequently sold to AstraZeneca and MedImmune.

Initially starting at incubator MBC Biolabs, Switch moved into its own premises in 2022 in South San Francisco. The first funding round has raised $52 million from UCB Ventures, Insight Partners, Eli Lilly, BOLD Capital Partners, Ono Venture Investment, Wilson Hill, as well as other VC firms.

The firm now has around 20 employees, but hopes to expand with the help of the funding. It will also use the financing money to fund development of its lead candidate, which will target an unspecified central nervous system condition. If successful, the company hopes to develop further candidates in collaboration with pharma partners.

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