BioPharma, Startups

Lava Therapeutics raises $83M in Series C round for bispecific antibodies

The company plans to start clinical development next year. Its focus is on bispecific antibodies – a form of cancer immunotherapy – that use gamma-delta “surveillance” T cells.

venture capital,money,business,Investor

A company developing bispecific antibodies in oncology has received its latest funding boost from the venture capital arms of two large drug companies.

Utrecht, Netherlands-based Lava Therapeutics said Thursday that it had raised $83 million in a Series C financing, led by two new investors – Novo Ventures and Sanofi Ventures – with participation from new investors that included Redmile Group, Ysios Capital and BB Pureos Bioventures. Existing investors Versant, Gilde Healthcare and MRL Ventures Fund also took part in the financing. Novo and Sanofi are respectively the venture capital arms of Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk and French drugmaker Sanofi.

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“This financing provides meaningful capital to advance our bispecific gamma-delta T cell engager portfolio into multiple proof-of-concept clinical trials expected to start in 2021 for the treatment of solid tumors and hematological malignancies,” Lava CEO Stephen Hurly said in a statement. “We believe our targeted approach, leveraging the unique features of gamma9-delta2 T cells with innovative bispecific antibodies, will deliver novel T cell-based therapies offering advantages over today’s oncology treatments.”

The company said it plans to use the money to advance its pipeline and drug-development platform, which it describes as using the properties of gamma-delta T cells – the surveillance cells of the immune system – to create immunotherapies targeted to tumors.

In a general sense, bispecific antibodies are a class of immuno-oncology drugs that work by targeting an antigen on the surface of a cancer cell and then targeting a protein on the surface of a T cell and thus guiding the T cell to kill the cancer cell. For example, Amgen’s approved drug Blincyto (blinatumomab), used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia, targets the antigen CD19, which is highly expressed in malignant B cells in ALL, and then uses CD3 on the surfaces of T cells to direct the latter to kill the former. Most bispecific antibodies work along similar lines, such as others under development by Amgen, Johnson & Johnson and other companies.

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