- A young biotech company focused on developing regulatory T cell, or Treg, therapies to treat immune and inflammatory diseases announced on Wednesday significant new funding of $157 million.
- The large Series A round was led by Matrix Capital Management, the same venture capital partner that backed the company, called GentiBio, last year in a $20 million seed fundraising. OrbiMed, RA Capital and Novartis' Venture fund, among others, also chipped into the new investment, which GentiBio's president claims is the "largest Series A in a Treg therapeutic space to date."
- GentiBio is one of several new companies working on Treg therapies, including the recently launched and Third Rock Ventures-backed Abata Therapeutics. GentiBio touts its manufacturing, which it's building out in Seattle, as a particular advantage.
The size of the Series A is notably large, reflecting the growing interest in using Tregs to treat diseases like Type 1 diabetes.
GentiBio's ambitions, and that of its executives, are similarly sky-high: "After a single or a limited number of applications of our Tregs, we can potentially cure the disease," said Adel Nada, president and CEO of GentiBio since its launch last year. "If not, we're going to significantly modify the course of the disease in a way that is unattainable by any other modality available today."
In healthy people, Tregs act as a brake against an overactive immune response, preventing the body from attacking itself, as it does in numerous autoimmune or inflammatory diseases. Since the mid-1990s, there has been what Nada described as "an alluring potential" to harness these cells to regain control of the immune system when it's lacking needed checks and balances.
"If engineered and directed the right way, Tregs can durably suppress the overactive immune system, essentially meaning a potential cure for your autoimmune disorder," he said.
GentiBio's approach to Tregs emphasizes manufacturing scalability, as, according to the company, Tregs are difficult to isolate and purify in large quantities. To create its planned medicines, the biotech is developing a synthetic receptor designed to specifically stimulate Tregs with the fuel they need to ramp up. GentiBio claims it can direct the Treg to the inflamed or diseased tissue, avoiding other, healthy places in the body.
Having raised $177 million since 2020, Nada said GentiBio is getting closer to moving into the clinic with a Type 1 diabetes candidate. Preparatory studies are expected to begin before the end of the year. Nada said the company is looking at other candidates for immune and inflammatory diseases, although he did not specify which ones.
In seeking out new funding, GentiBio wanted a specific type of investor: one eager and willing to make a long-term commitment.
"It's very important to couple two elements," he said. "The fact that it's a very exciting, very high potential technology, and the fact that there's a lot of intensity to the resources required to bring this to the finish line, that calls for a specific kind of investor."
Investors don't seem to be in short supply for Treg companies, however. Last week, Sonoma Biotherapeutics, which aims to use the immune cells to treat arthritis and other immune diseases, raised $265 million in a Series B round backed by 21 investors. In June, Abata raised $90 million in a Series A led by Third Rock and ElevateBio.
GentiBio plans to be a bicoastal operation — with research and development and corporate offices in Boston and a standalone manufacturing location in Seattle, where the company aims to hire a team of roughly 45 people. Construction of the manufacturing space will take place after a future funding round, according to Nada.