Imago raises $80M to further studies of its treatment for blood and bone-marrow disorders

The San Francisco-based company aims to complete at least one Phase III study by 2025, and it is weighing an IPO next year to fund more.

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A San Francisco-based biopharmaceutical company has raised $80 million that it will use to complete phase III studies of its treatment for a class of blood and bone-marrow disorders known as myeloproliferative neoplasms.

Founded in 2012, Imago Biosciences hopes to complete at least one phase III study by 2025. The most recent funding round, a Series C, should carry it through, according to Dr. Hugh Young Rienhoff Jr., the company’s founder and CEO.

The company also is considering going public in 2021, Rienhoff said in a phone interview. The additional proceeds would allow Imago to complete and pursue additional studies.

“It would be nice to have because it would give us the flexibility,” he said.

Imago’s therapy is a small molecule called bomedemstat. It is currently being investigated in a pair of phase IIb trials for the treatment of a rare blood cancer called myelofibrosis and of essential thrombocythemia, a chronic blood disorder that causes the body to produce excess platelets, increasing the risk of blood clots.

It also is being evaluated in open-label Phase II trials for the treatment of advanced myelofibrosis and polycythemia vera, a rare bone-marrow cancer.

The drug works by inhibiting an enzyme called lysine-specific demethylase, or LSD1, which plays a role in the progression of the diseases for which bomedemstat is indicated

The Food and Drug Administration has given bomedemstat breakthrough and orphan drug designation for both indications, while the European Medicines Agency has given the therapy PRIME designation for the treatment of myelofibrosis.

The new investments would support a phase III trial for at least one of the two indications, Rienhoff said. They currently can be treated by a drug called ruxolitinib. But some patients may be resistant to or unable to tolerate the drug.

Rienhoff said studies of bomedemstat are showing it can increase the survival rate for patients by preventing their conditions from getting worse.

“That’s really what the next generation of myofibrosis drugs should aim to do,” Rienhoff said.

Imago employs about 20 people full time, as well as 10 to 15 contract employees, Rienhoff added.

The company’s Series C round was led by Farallon Capital Management. Participants included Surveyor Capital, Irving Investors, Kindgon Capital Management, and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, as well as funds and accounts managed by Blackrock Advisors.

Previous investors also took part. They include Blackstone Life Sciences, Frazier Healthcare Partners, Amgen Ventures, MRL Ventures Fund, HighLight Capital, Pharmaron Investments, Greenspring Associates, Xeraya Capital and Omega Funds, which led a $40 million Series B round for Imago in 2019.

A Series A round in 2014, led by Clarus Ventures, raised $26.5 million. Clarus was acquired by The Blackstone Group in 2018.

Imago is not Rienhoff’s first startup. He previously launched and led a company called FerroKin BioSciences, which was sold to Ireland-based Shire in 2012 for about $325 million.

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