Watertown biotech raises $60m, hints at IPO

Dicerna Pharmaceuticals of Watertown, developer of genetic cancer therapies, is set to announce Thursday that it has raised $60 million in a third round of funding that will propel the company toward clinical trials next year, and possibly toward an initial public offering.

“It buys a lot of coffee, which we’ll need,’’ joked Dicerna chief executive Douglas M. Fambrough. “Lot of late nights ahead.’’

Fambrough noted that the latest round of financing includes money from four funds that focus on publicly traded companies, which he said “makes an IPO a real option.’’

“The fact that we’re starting to attract interest from public funds is an indication that they think we have a bright future, and expect we’ll grow into a big and important company,’’ he said.


Dicerna’s research is focused on RNA interference, which Fambrough described like this: “All proteins in the body are encoded by genes, and there’s a messenger between the DNA genome and proteins. Our technology kills the messenger.’’

Only the cancer-causing messenger, he stressed. Dicerna therapies are designed to identify oncogenes, based on their genetic makeups, and attack them while leaving other genes unharmed.

The company is planning a clinical trial with patients battling liver cancer and a separate trial involving patients with a broad range of solid tumors. Fambrough said Dicerna also believes its therapies could be effective against some rare liver diseases, though he declined to name them.

Dicerna’s round C financing brings total investment in the company to $110 million. The round is led by new investor RA Capital Management of Boston, which receives a position on the company’s board of directors. RA Capital partner Peter Kolchinsky will fill the post.

Five previous investors in Dicerna – Abingworth Management of London, Domain Associates of Princeton, N.J., Oxford Bioscience Partners of Boston, Skyline Ventures of Palo Alto, and SR One of Conshohocken, Penn. – also joined the third round of financing.

The IPO market for life sciences companies has been hot this year, with roughly 30 nationwide going public, the most since 2007. Five biotech companies from Massachusetts have launched IPOs and a sixth, Foundation Medicine of Cambridge, filed IPO paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission this week.

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