- Cellares, a biotechnology startup that bills itself as the first “integrated” development and manufacturing organization dedicated to cell therapy, raised $255 million in a Series C financing.
- The pharmaceutical giant Bristol Myers Squibb joined other investors including Koch Disruptive Technologies, DFJ Growth and Willett Advisors to fund the latest round. Existing investors Eclipse, Decheng Capital and 8VC also participated, Cellares said Wednesday.
- David Mauney, managing director at Koch Disruptive Technologies, will join the board of directors at Cellares as part of the financing deal. He joins co-founders Fabian Gerlinghaus and Omar Kurdi and partners from Eclipse and Decheng on the board. The company’s advisory board includes cell therapy pioneer Carl June and Ezekiel Emanuel, a leading bioethicist who helped craft the Obamacare law.
At a time when biotech startups are struggling to raise funding, the enthusiasm for a company dedicated to cell and gene therapy manufacturing stands out.
The field is booming, with more than 2,200 clinical trials underway, according to the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine. But manufacturing for cell and gene therapies is complex, expensive and time-consuming. Small startups usually don’t have the capacity to handle production on their own, and larger contract manufacturing groups haven’t been able to handle all the demand from industry.
Enter a large and lengthening list of startups, among them Cellares, Elevate Bio, Kincell Bio and VintaBio, touting different ways of solving the problem. Some are manufacturing the delivery tools often used in gene and cell therapy experiments, while others are offering broader services, such as consulting and development assistance.
Cellares touts its “smart factories” that take advantage of automated machinery to produce more batches of both “off-the-shelf” cell therapies and personalized treatments that are formulated from a patient’s own cells. It plans to cater to both clinical-stage companies and those who need industrial-scale manufacturing.
The first Cellares smart factory, in South San Francisco, should be ready for regulatory compliant manufacturing in the first half of next year, while another in Bridgewater, New Jersey, is set to debut in the second half of 2024. The Bridgewater plant will be able to produce as many as 40,000 batches of cell therapy a year, 10 times as much as a traditional CDMO, Cellares said.
Cellares also plans to break ground on a smart factory in Europe next year.