Biotech company taps into human diversity for next-generation NK cell therapies
SAN FRANCISCO–ImmuneBridge, a biotechnology company using nature’s innate intelligence to fight cancer, today announced the close of an oversubscribed $12 million seed financing co-led by global investors Insight Partners and M Ventures, the strategic, corporate venture capital arm of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. One Way Ventures and Gaingels also participated. Cheryl Zimberlin, Investment Director at M Ventures, and Dylan Morris, Managing Director at Insight Partners have joined ImmuneBridge’s Board of Directors.
ImmuneBridge is developing allogeneic natural killer (NK) cell-based immunotherapies for hematologic malignancies and solid tumors. NK cells represent a promising platform for allogeneic immunotherapy because they are potent cancer killers with a minimal risk profile. Current approaches to NK therapeutic development have yet to identify optimal product attributes with regard to source, phenotype, and engineering that yield the most effective and durable therapies.
ImmuneBridge’s orthogonal approach uses a proprietary expansion technology and a diverse clinic-ready source to enable accelerated discovery and translation of the most potent cell therapies. ImmuneBridge’s expansion technology expands hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), which are natural precursors of NK cells. HSCs are readily available via umbilical cord blood from public cord blood banks across the United States and globally. This approach allows for the systematic screening of cord blood to identify the most potent cells per indication, which then can be genetically engineered to enhance their potency on top of their innate baseline.
“Cell therapy is a new pillar of medicine and is inextricably human. Cell therapy developers fear donor-to-donor variability, yet we humans are unapologetically diverse in our innate immune systems. It is natural to identify the most potent therapies from among human diversity—and we can employ genetic engineering to enhance them,” said Peretz Partensky, co-founder and CEO of ImmuneBridge. “We dare to not fear our immunological diversity but to embrace it.”
This investment will be used to build a screening dataset for indication-optimized NK cells, to demonstrate scalable manufacturability, and to generate pre-clinical data for a lead product.
“After surveying the broader landscape, we believe ImmuneBridge is uniquely positioned to build the next generation of off-the-shelf NK cell therapies. They have a distinct and promising approach to overcome challenges faced by existing therapies,” said Cheryl Zimberlin, Investment Director at M Ventures.
“By taking advantage of the genotypic diversity of the human immune system, ImmuneBridge has the potential to dramatically improve the way we approach off-the-shelf immunotherapies,” said Dylan Morris, Managing Director at Insight Partners.
Earlier this year, ImmuneBridge engaged key advisors, including Catherine Blish, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine and Aharon Freud, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology at Ohio State University as part of ImmuneBridge’s Scientific Advisory Board.
ImmuneBridge is developing the next generation of allogeneic cellular medicines to make curative cancer therapies accessible to everyone, starting with NK cell-based immunotherapies. ImmuneBridge’s proprietary expansion technology amplifies cord blood-derived immune stem cells while maintaining full immune multipotency—to create a consistent and abundant cellular source for immunotherapies. ImmuneBridge’s scientific approach harnesses this expansion technology along with the unique benefits of umbilical cord blood to enable robust screening and selection for the most potent cancer-fighting cells. Based in San Francisco, ImmuneBridge is led by co-founders Peretz Partensky and Jesse Cotari.
About M Ventures
M Ventures is a strategic, corporate venture capital fund, with a mandate to invest in innovative technologies and products with the potential to significantly impact the business priorities of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. From its headquarters in Amsterdam and offices in Germany, US and Israel, M Ventures invests globally in transformational ideas driven by great entrepreneurs. M Ventures takes an active role in its portfolio companies and teams up with entrepreneurs and co-investors to translate innovation towards commercial success.
About Insight Partners
Insight Partners is a global investor partnering with high-growth technology, software, and Internet startup and ScaleUp companies that are driving transformative change in their industries. As of June 30, 2022, the firm has over $80B in regulatory assets under management. Insight Partners has invested in more than 700 companies worldwide and has seen over 55 portfolio companies achieve an IPO. Headquartered in New York City, Insight has offices in London, Tel Aviv, and Palo Alto. Insight’s mission is to find, fund, and work successfully with visionary executives, providing them with right-sized, right-time practical, hands-on software expertise along their growth journey, from their first investment to IPO.
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