Scout Bio, a Philadelphia-based veterinary treatment developer partnered with Jim Wilson’s gene therapy lab at the University of Pennsylvania medical school, says it has raised $20 million from a group of biotech investment firms to advance work on using adeno-associated viruses to treat “major chronic pet health conditions.”
Unlike Spark Therapeutics and other human-focused companies that have raised large sums for treating genetic diseases in humans, Scout targets more general veterinary conditions. It is developing proteins that could be injected in single shots for kidney disease, chronic pain and atopic dermatitis. Scout says its feline erhthropoietin therapy has boosted red-blood cell counts in cats with kidney disease “for months” after one shot, and says the product, as described, is popular among veterinarians it has polled.
The investors are co-led by New York-based Digitalis Ventures’ Companion Fund and RiverVest Venture Partners of St. Louis, which backed Scout previously. Other investors include first-time backer GreenSpring Associates and previous investors Frazier Healthcare Partners, Adage Capital Management and Correlation Ventures. Frazier, based in Seattle, led a previous $9.3 million investment in Scout in the spring of 2018.
RiverVest’s Nancy Hong, Digitalis’ Cindy Cole and Frazier’s Aditya Kohli are joining Scout CEO Mark Heffernan, Tachi Yamada of Takeda Pharmaceuticals, and Frazier’s Patrick Heron on Scout’s board.
Wilson is a co-founder and scientific adviser of Scout, which has worldwide rights to AAV-based veterinary products and technologies under terms of their agreement.
Penn’s gene therapy program “is looking forward to extending its long-term leadership in AAV research and development into companion animal health,” added Wilson in a statement. “There is now a confluence between matured gene therapy technologies and medical need in animal health, and we believe Scout is positioned very strongly at that intersection and opportunity.”
Wilson’s lab’s technology is also a basis for Regenexbio, a Maryland-based, publicly-traded company adapting AAV for use in human medical therapies.
In a statement, Heffernan, Scout’s CEO, said his company’s goal is to use “gene therapy to dramatically elevate the standard of care for multiple areas of veterinary medicine” by replacing “chronic” treatments with one-shot fixes.