Boston-based Atea Pharmaceuticals has raised $215m in a Series D financing round. The investment was led by Bain Capital Life Sciences; other new investors that participated in the round include Omega Funds, Rock Springs Capital and Redmile Group. Some of Atea’s existing investors also participated, including Ally Bridge Group and Morningside Ventures.

This funding will primarily be used to support Atea’s efforts against Covid-19. The company recently received clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to advance its novel antiviral drug AT-527 into a Phase II clinical trial. This study will evaluate the safety, tolerability and efficacy of AT-527 in those aged between 45 to 80 with moderate Covid-19 and risk factors for poor outcomes, such as diabetes, asthma and hypertension.

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Atea founder and CEO Jean-Pierre Sommadossi states: “We were extremely fortunate to garner support from some of the most prominent healthcare investors in the world, who share our vision and belief in our development strategy [despite the Covid-19 pandemic].”

AT-527’s promise in Covid-19

Atea’s focus is on developing treatments for “patients suffering with RNA viral infections” using its proprietary purine nucleotide prodrug platform, Sommadossi explains.

AT-527 is the company’s lead candidate in its pipeline of direct-acting antivirals. The drug “has demonstrated in vitro and in vivo antiviral activity against several enveloped single-stranded RNA viruses, including human flaviviruses and coronaviruses,” according to Sommadossi. Its mechanism of action involves inhibiting the RNA polymerase enzyme essential to the replication of these viruses.

This pre-clinical data in other coronaviruses, and demonstrated safety and antiviral activity in previous Hepatitis C trials, led to the FDA’s approval for Atea to advance AT-527 straight into a Phase II trial.

 Although Sommadossi notes it is still too early to definitively say when AT-527 might be able to progress into Phase III trials, according to its filing, Atea is hoping to complete the study in August this year.

Other infectious disease programmes

While Atea decided early on in the pandemic to prioritise its Covid-19 programme, some of the proceeds from the Series D round will be used to “efficiently advance our other product candidates in dengue, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and hepatitis C”, notes Sommadossi.

The company has advanced its programme for dengue fever, despite the pandemic, and Sommadossi is hopeful it can submit an investigational new drug application in the near future.

In addition, Atea is keen to re-initiate its AT-527 hepatitis C clinical development programme “just as soon as it is possible to do safely”, says Sommadossi. In late 2018, the company presented data showing that AT-527 had a potent antiviral activity in vitro against wild-type clinical isolates in all hepatitis C genotypes.