CAMARILLO, Calif., Jan. 20, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- ImmPACT Bio USA, Inc. ("ImmPACT Bio"), a clinical-stage company developing transformative logic-gate based chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapies for treating cancer, today announced it has closed $111 million in Series B financing, led by venBio Partners along with co-leads Foresite Capital and Decheng Capital. Surveyor Capital (a Citadel company) also joined this financing round. Additional investors include the company's existing investors OrbiMed, Novartis Venture Fund, RM Global Partners (RMGP), and Bukwang Pharmaceutical. The company also announced the appointment of Sheila Gujrathi, M.D., as chair of its board of directors, and Sumant Ramachandra, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., as president and chief executive officer (CEO), who will also join ImmPACT Bio's board.
In addition, ImmPACT Bio provided an update to the Phase 1 clinical study evaluating its CD19-CD20 bi-specific CAR T in patients with relapsed or refractory B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (R/R B-cell NHL) at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In a total of eight patients treated to date with 12 months median followup, seven patients achieved and remain in complete remission (CR). A favorable tolerability profile was noted with no treatment-related neurotoxicity and no cytokine release syndrome above grade 1. Data will be presented in a future scientific forum.
The company's logic-gate based CAR T platforms address key biological challenges in treating cancer. ImmPACT Bio's technologies are specifically designed to address antigen escape, 'on-target – off-tumor' toxicities, and the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. The company's technologies are based on the work of pioneering scientists Yvonne Chen, Ph.D., and Antoni Ribas, M.D., Ph.D., both from UCLA, and Gideon Gross, Ph.D., from the MIGAL-Galilee Research Institute. Proceeds from the financing will be used to further the company's development of logic-gate-based CAR T-cell platforms.
"ImmPACT Bio is thrilled to receive such strong support from this outstanding group of investors," said newly appointed ImmPACT Bio CEO Dr. Ramachandra. "We are encouraged by these initial results of our Phase 1 clinical study and look forward to advancing our pipeline of transformative next-generation CAR T-cell therapies that harness the immune system and address key challenges for current cell therapies in cancer."
"We believe ImmPACT Bio's technology platforms will help to expand the curative potential of cell therapies in certain cancers and to address challenges that have limited the efficacy of cell therapies in hard-to-treat tumor types," said Richard Gaster, M.D., Ph.D., managing partner at venBio Partners. "We are excited to work with the scientists and clinicians at ImmPACT Bio to translate their engineering innovations into novel cell therapy products for multiple malignancies."
"We're honored to work with ImmPACT Bio as they develop novel strategies to address unmet oncology needs," said Jim Tananbaum, founder and CEO of Foresite Capital. "With Drs. Gujrathi and Ramachandra at the helm, this is an incredibly exciting time for ImmPACT Bio and the patients who are waiting for next-generation cancer therapies."
"ImmPACT Bio's logic-gate-based CAR T platform holds tremendous potential to usher in a step-change in the treatment of solid tumors and blood cancers. We are pleased to join this distinguished group of healthcare investors supporting this world-class team to advance what we believe could become a new paradigm in cancer treatment," said Min Cui, Ph.D., founder and managing director of Decheng Capital.
As part of the financing, Yvonne Yamanaka, Ph.D., of venBio Partners, Cindy Xiong, Ph.D., of Foresite Capital, and Min Cui, Ph.D., of Decheng Capital will join the company's board.
Sheila Gujrathi Named New Chair of Board of Directors
ImmPACT Bio also announced the appointment of Dr. Gujrathi as board chair. Erez Chimovits, partner at OrbiMed and ImmPACT Bio's chairman, will remain on the company's board.
"It is my pleasure to welcome Sheila to the board of ImmPACT Bio," said Mr. Chimovits. "This is a transformational period in ImmPACT Bio's evolution, and Sheila is an exceptional fit for the company's next stage of growth, given her deep experience leading biotech companies."
"ImmPACT Bio possesses an innovative and proprietary CAR T-cell platform, compelling clinical and early-stage assets, and a dynamic leadership team. Today's announcement of the company's Series B financing bolsters the potential to transform the oncology therapeutic landscape," said Dr. Gujrathi. "I'm thrilled to join as board chair and help ImmPACT Bio achieve its vision of developing transformative oncology medicines for cancer patients who have exhausted their treatment options."
Dr. Gujrathi is currently a venture advisor at OrbiMed and serves as executive chair of Ventyx Biosciences, chair of ADARx Pharmaceuticals, and director of Janux Therapeutics. She previously served as chair of Turning Point Therapeutics and is the co-founder and former CEO of Gossamer Bio. Prior to Gossamer, Dr. Gujrathi served as chief medical officer of Receptos, which was acquired by Celgene. Previously, she held development leadership positions at Bristol-Myers Squibb and Genentech where she led development and numerous global regulatory filings and approvals for immunology and oncology programs. Earlier in her career, she was a management consultant in McKinsey & Company's healthcare practice. Dr. Gujrathi received both her M.D. in the accelerated Honors Program in Medical Education and her B.S. in biomedical engineering with highest distinction from Northwestern University. She completed her internal medicine internship and residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School and additional fellowship training in allergy/immunology at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Stanford University Medical Center.
Industry Veteran Sumant Ramachandra Named President and CEO
Dr. Ramachandra brings more than 30 years' experience in healthcare, including more than two decades in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry across multiple roles. CEO Rick Kendall, Ph.D., will continue as chief scientific officer (CSO) of ImmPACT Bio.
"I am confident ImmPACT has selected in Sumant the right leader to build on our success to date and to drive value for the company as he has done for several companies in the healthcare industry," said Dr. Gujrathi. "I want to thank Rick for his leadership in bringing ImmPACT Bio forward to a clinical-stage company and I look forward to working closely with this 'dream team' and contributing to our continued growth."
"I am excited to join ImmPACT Bio at such a crucial time in our development. I am impressed with the strong scientific foundation that the co-founders, management team, and board have built across its programs and platforms that aim to bring curative therapies to patients living with cancer," said Dr. Ramachandra.
Prior to joining ImmPACT Bio, Dr. Ramachandra was chief science, technology, and medical officer at Baxter International, which he joined in June 2017. In addition to these responsibilities, he was appointed president of Baxter Global Pharmaceuticals in mid-2019 and was appointed as chair of Baxter's Global Inclusion Council focused on inclusion and diversity. Previously, he was at Pfizer, most recently as senior vice president, head of research and development, Pfizer Essential Health. He served as CSO at Hospira from 2008 to 2015 prior to Pfizer's acquisition of Hospira in 2015. Earlier in his career, Dr. Ramachandra worked with Pfizer and Merck & Co. in various senior-level oncology global product development, medical affairs, and business development and licensing roles, and as a clinical pharmacologist. Before entering the industry in 2000, he was an intern and resident physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Ramachandra earned a Ph.D. in experimental pathology in the study of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), an M.D., and a B.A. in biochemistry at Rutgers University. In addition, he holds an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Leading the Next Generation of CAR T
For hematological malignancies, the company's lead program is a CD19-CD20 bispecific 'OR-gate' CAR T designed to address antigen escape, which is a key challenge for current approved CD19 therapies. Early results indicate the potentially best-in-class bispecific CAR T-cell candidate is safe and effective in patients with R/R B-cell NHL.
Treating solid tumors is even more challenging, partially due to off-target safety considerations and the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. ImmPACT Bio is developing novel strategies for addressing this unmet need, designing next-generation CAR T to assure tumor specificity and efficacy in the hostile tumor environment, while protecting the normal tissue.
ImmPACT Bio's second platform features engineered T cells with an activator/inhibitor 'NOT-gate' CAR combination that uniquely differentiates between tumor and normal cells. The activator CAR kills the tumor cells while the inhibitory CAR protects normal cells. The activator/inhibitor platform technology has the potential to deliver multiple products across solid tumors by pairing different activator/inhibitor combinations, providing diverse opportunities in an emerging and promising area of cancer therapy.
The company's third platform, a TGF-β CAR that can be modularly equipped with tumor-targeting binding domains to generate bispecific 'OR-gate' CARs, rewires the T-cell response to TGF-β to convert this potent immunosuppressive cytokine into a T-cell stimulant. Single-chain bispecific CARs that simultaneously convert TGF-β signaling while directly targeting surface-bound tumor antigens enable T cells to robustly eliminate tumor cells in otherwise highly immunosuppressive microenvironments.
About ImmPACT Bio
ImmPACT Bio USA, Inc., is a clinical-stage company dedicated to the discovery of transformative chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapies for cancer patients who have exhausted their treatment options. The company's logic-gate-based CAR T platforms address key biological challenges in treating cancer. ImmPACT Bio's technologies are specifically designed to prevent antigen escape, prevent 'on-target – off-tumor' toxicities, and overcome the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. The company's technology is based on the work of pioneering scientists Yvonne Chen, Ph.D., and Antoni Ribas, M.D., Ph.D., both from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and Gideon Gross, Ph.D., from the MIGAL-Galilee Research Institute. For more information, visit www.immpact-bio.com.
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