BOSTON-November 21, 2019: Immunitas Therapeutics (“Immunitas”), a single cell genomics-based drug discovery company founded by Longwood Fund, today announced a $39 million Series A financing led by Leaps by Bayer and Novartis Venture Fund and joined by additional investors including Evotec, M Ventures, Alexandria Venture Investments, and other institutional investors. The company plans to use this funding to advance its first programs, monoclonal antibody therapeutics with single agent activity in preclinical models of oncology, to clinical studies.
Underlying the company’s programs is the unique drug development platform crafted by the Immunitas team along with Aviv Regev (Professor of Biology and Core Member of the Broad Institute and Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute) that dissects the microenvironment of human tumors using single cell genomics-based approaches to identify novel immune targets. The Immunitas platform has generated fully humanized antibodies that act on these targets, advancing to human efficacy studies driven by specific clinical biomarkers, and a breadth of promising druggable cancer targets.
The scientific founders of Immunitas are pioneers in studying the immunobiology of human tumors, including the use of single cell genomics-based techniques and antibody-development techniques:
Kai Wucherpfennig M.D. Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Cancer Immunology and Virology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School,
Mario Suvà M.D., Ph.D., an Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital and at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and
Dane Wittrup, Ph.D., the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“Single cell genomic sequencing has tremendous promise to help unravel the interactions between immune cells and cancer cells in tumors to advance cancer drug development but focusing it appropriately to discover meaningful new targets based on human biology has been challenging,” said Dr. Wucherpfennig. “The Immunitas platform is designed to reveal novel and important adaptive and innate immune interactions with tumor cells, which may open up new possibilities in cancer therapy. My scientific co-founders and I look forward to continuing to work with the Immunitas team as they advance this powerful science.”
“Our scientific founders are pioneers in the field of single cell sequencing and analysis. They have extensive expertise in deep computational biology, which has enabled us to discover novel therapeutic targets directly from human immunology,” said Lea Hachigian, Ph.D., co-founder, director and President of Immunitas Therapeutics. “The data from this platform have also provided us with biomarkers for patient selection, which has potential to accelerate our development plans and provides improved chances for efficacy for individual patients.”
Immunitas was founded to directly address the challenge of translating findings from laboratory research in model organisms to meaningful clinical advances in humans. Immunitas focuses on human samples, allowing the company to start with and stay closer to the most relevant and translatable biology for patients.
“One of today’s biggest challenges in oncology is how to efficiently and effectively move preclinical research into human therapies while avoiding the false signals often seen in animal models,” said Dr. Jürgen Eckhardt, Head of Leaps by Bayer, Bayer AG’s strategic venture capital unit. “The scientific founders of Immunitas have elegantly solved this problem by dissecting the biology of immune cells in human tumors directly. We are excited to support this approach which has the potential to significantly improve cancer drug development.”
Longwood-founded Immunitas also announced key senior management appointments as well as the Board of Directors of the company. Dr. Lea Hachigian is co-founder, director and President of Immunitas as well as a Principal at Longwood Fund. She is also a co-founder and director of TScan Therapeutics. Tarek Samad, Ph.D. is the Chief Scientific Officer at Immunitas Therapeutics. He has over two decades of experience in academia and industry leading small molecule and antibody biologic programs into the clinic. Amanda Wagner joins the company as Vice President of Strategy and Operations with over ten years of biotech experience in similar roles. The Board of Directors includes Dr. Laura Brass, Dr. Jürgen Eckhardt, Dr. Lea Hachigian, Dr. Lucio Iannone, Dr. Christoph Westphal, and Dr. Vincent Xiang.
About Immunitas Therapeutics
Immunitas Therapeutics, founded by Longwood Fund, employs a single cell genomics platform to dissect the biology of immune cells in human tumors, thereby advancing discoveries directly from the bench into meaningful clinical improvements. Our focus on human data allows us to start with and stay closer to the biology that is most relevant in patients and greatly accelerates the pace of our research. The Immunitas team of scientific pioneers innovates around each step of the drug development process, first identifying novel targets, then designing therapeutic strategies, and developing key biomarkers to guide the selection of patients who may benefit from our new drugs.www.ImmunitasTx.com.
Immunitas – the human approach to oncology