Greenlight Biosciences to Expand R&D Operations in RTP With $50M Round

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Greenlight Biosciences Inc., which is developing RNA-based solutions for agriculture and pharmaceutical applications, has disclosed a $50 million first closing of its latest funding round.

The company previously raised about $46 million in equity since 2013, according to regulatory filings.

The current round was led by S2G Ventures, Baird Capital and Blue I/O. Several additional top-tier investors, including Continental Grain Company, Tao Capital Partners and Alexandria Venture Investments, joined the investor syndicate. The majority of existing Greenlight investors also participated in the oversubscribed round.

Greenlight, headquartered in Boston, has its plant sciences research and development operations in Research Triangle Park and St. Louis.

Greenlight's Boston-based director of crop discovery Doug Boyes told the Biotech Center that the company's RTP facility has three people now, but the company plans an expansion using funds from this round.

He said Greenlight is near signing a lease on a new lab, office, and greenhouse facility, also in the Park. The company expects to have from 30 to 32 people in the new facility, which it plans to open mid-summer 2019.

"It's going to be focused on building our capabilities in the Ag space," Boyes said. "Primarily, it will be our center for screening new molecules for crop protection." That means pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides, he added.

Currently, Brian Nanley is head of field research at the RTP facility and Bridley Maxwell leads its screening operations.

Boyes said of the planned new RTP facility, "We're building a center of excellence for our agriculture research and development activities."

Greenlight is focused on the discovery and development of RNA-based products for agriculture and human health.

Greenlight says its technology is capable of delivering cost effective, high quality RNA solutions to human, animal, and plant challenges that work without damaging the environment.

Platform considered unique in the Industry

"We believe that Greenlight's proprietary Cell-Free platform, and its pipeline of RNA-based products targeting significant applications in agriculture, are truly unique in the industry," said Eric O'Brien, co-founder and managing director of Fall Line Capital at the time of Greenlight’s $18 million Series D funding in September 2017.

"Double-stranded RNAs (dsRNA) produced with Greenlight's Cell-Free platform have the potential to revolutionize how agricultural pests are addressed and controlled at a global scale, using highly specific, sustainable approaches."   

The company explains that RNA molecules have been demonstrated as powerful biological tools to arrest some of the most pernicious agricultural pests. In contrast with traditional chemical insecticides, herbicides and fungicides, dsRNA-based bio-pesticides can be designed – using current sequencing and bio-informatic technologies – to have high pesticidal efficacy with unprecedented levels of specificity and sustainability.  

This means that Greenlight's platform technology can be employed to directly address the target pest, while completely sparing beneficial and benign organisms, with minimal impact to the environment.  

Company hews to a rapid development pace

"We at S2G remain impressed with the platform that Andrey Zarur, Ph.D., GreenLight co-founder/CEO, and the Greenlight team are building, and the rapid pace of its development over the past year," said Matthew Walker, managing director at S2G Ventures in the funding announcement.

"We're now at a price point and purity level that opens up a host of markets and applications to an RNA-based solution that was previously limited to the highest-value human therapeutic markets.”

He added, “The Greenlight technology and products have the potential to bring about a new modality in human, animal and plant health, providing highly effective, targeted solutions that compete with or outperform traditional chemical treatments in terms of cost, efficacy, and off-target impacts. We are pleased to continue to support Greenlight and are thrilled to be working with such a capable management team and dynamic investor group."

The funding round will support rapid expansion of Greenlight's discovery and development capabilities, including agricultural bio-control products and human and animal vaccines and therapeutics.

Seeing potential to revolutionize multiple industries

Greenlight has established partnerships with leading corporations and academic institutions and collaborates with these parties to accelerate the development of a portfolio of bio-performance candidates for plant and life sciences.

Mike Liang, partner at Baird Capital said in a statement, "We do not often see platforms that have the potential to revolutionize an industry, much less multiple ones. The opportunity to extend the Greenlight platform of low-cost, high-quality RNA production into the life sciences markets is extremely compelling, and we are excited about the potential for Greenlight to become the leader in RNA products across different markets."

CEO Zarur said the company is "very excited about the opportunities that will result from this funding round.

“Our mission is to accelerate the creation and development of RNA solutions that perform at a level that is equal to or exceeds current plant and life science solutions.”

Allan Maurer, NCBiotech Writer
Fri, 01/11/2019 - 14:47