Pharma Focus America

Santa Ana Bio Launches with $168 Million for Advancing Precision Medicines in Inflammatory Diseases

Friday, June 14, 2024

Santa Ana Bio, a company specializing in precision immunology, has publicly launched with $168 million in funding from Series A and B rounds. The Series A funding round was led by Versant Ventures, with participation from TPG’s Life Science Innovations fund and GV. GV also led the $125 million Series B round, supported by previous investors and new contributors such as Access Biotechnology, Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) Bio + Health, and RTW.

The company is addressing the limitations of current biologic treatments for autoimmune diseases, which often fail to selectively target diseased cells over healthy ones. Santa Ana Bio employs advanced proteomic, transcriptomic, and genomic techniques to identify targets specific to disease-causing cells, aiming to improve treatment efficacy, address patient variability, and enhance safety profiles.

“Precision medicine allows for the targeted disruption of disease pathways by focusing on specific cell types,” explained Peter Emtage, Ph.D., CEO of Santa Ana Bio and a venture partner at Versant. “By accurately identifying pathogenic cell types and pathways, and utilizing our expertise in protein engineering, including monoclonal and bi-specific antibodies as well as antibody-drug conjugates, we are enhancing the therapeutic potential of biologics for inflammatory diseases.”

Dr. Emtage brings over 20 years of experience in drug development across multiple therapeutic areas, including autoimmunity, inflammation, oncology, and infectious diseases. He has held significant roles in companies like Kite Pharma and Cell Design Labs.

Jerel Davis, Ph.D., managing director at Versant and chair of Santa Ana Bio’s board, highlighted the innovative nature of the company’s projects. “Santa Ana’s therapies not only build on established clinical data but also introduce new approaches that distinguish them from previous treatments,” he said. “The variety of their programs provides considerable opportunities for advancing internal projects and forming strategic partnerships.”

Brendan Bulik-Sullivan, Ph.D., a board member from GV, expressed support for the company's strategic direction, noting the promising preclinical results and rapid progress. “Peter’s leadership in immunology, combined with a team of distinguished scientists, is poised to make significant contributions to our pipeline of antibodies for autoimmune conditions,” he remarked.

Since its founding in 2022, Santa Ana Bio has developed three programs set to enter clinical trials next year, aimed at more effectively targeting the underlying causes of autoimmune diseases.

The SAB01 program targets c-Kit on mast cells, involved in allergic responses, using a bi-specific antibody that selectively inhibits this marker in mast cells to avoid common side effects. SAB03 focuses on PD-1 in rheumatoid arthritis, designed to eliminate pathogenic T cells with varying levels of PD-1 expression. The SAB05 ADC program explores innovative conjugates combining antibodies with glucocorticoids to utilize their therapeutic benefits while minimizing adverse effects.

Santa Ana Bio’s leadership team features seasoned professionals with diverse expertise in immunology, protein sciences, and drug development, supported by distinguished academic founders and advisors such as Alexander Rudensky, Ph.D., at Sloan Kettering Institute, and Richard Flavell, Ph.D., from Yale University.

The board also includes Shinichiro Fuse, Ph.D., from TPG, Marcelo Bigal, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of Ventus Therapeutics, Mittie Doyle, M.D., CMO at Aro Biotherapeutics, and Christine Borowski, Ph.D., from Access Biotechnology.



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