NEWS FEATURE

March 2021 saw several immunotherapy-related financings

In the first of a new series exploring monthly financing biotech news, Emma Dorey examines a selection of noteworthy financings in the month of March.
Euro banknotes rolled up in test tubes

Pyxis Oncology, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, closed a $152 million series B financing as the first quarter of the year drew to a close, bringing its total funding to $174 million. The new funds will enable the company to advance towards the clinic three differentiated antibody–drug conjugate candidates targeting solid tumors and hematologic malignancies, and its immuno-oncology programs.

Step Pharma, a biotech in Archamps, France that develops novel drugs for oncology and autoimmune diseases, raised EUR35 million from new and existing investors in a series B financing. The proceeds will be used to advance its lead CTPS1 inhibitor into clinical development for treating T cell malignancies—an area of significant unmet need. Targeting the CTPS1 enzyme is a novel precision approach to block proliferation and kill lymphoma and leukemia cancer cells. Step also plans to develop CTPS1 inhibitors in other hematological malignancies and solid tumors.

Meanwhile, Amunix Pharmaceuticals, based in South San Francisco, California, closed a $117 million series B financing round to fund its oncology pipeline of protease-activated T cell engagers and cytokines that are masked to help their delivery into the tumor microenvironment and reduce off-tumor toxicity. The funds will enable the company to take its lead product, an engager targeting HER2-expressing solid tumors, into the clinic.

Finally in the immuno-oncology field, Caribou Biosciences raised $115 million in a series C financing to advance its next-generation CRISPR technologies and allogeneic immune cell therapies for oncology. These include an allogeneic CAR-T cell program targeting CD19, currently in a phase 1 trial for relapsed/refractory B cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and another that is cloaked to avoid the immune system and targets BCMA for treating relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma. This financing round brings the total raised by Caribou, based in Berkeley, California, to around $157 million, some of which will also be used to advance its iPSC-derived NK cell therapies for solid tumors.

Outside of oncology, cell and gene company ElevateBio raised one of the highest financings of the month with its series C funding of $525million. The funding, that came from existing and new investors, will help ElevateBio build upon its R&D and manufacturing capabilities, continue to develop its own therapies, as well as expand its opportunities to establish collaborations and spin out companies.

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