Cell therapy company Clade Therapeutics, which will focus on creating ‘off-the-shelf’ allogeneic cell therapies, has launched with a $87M Series A.
The funding of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup is led by U.K. life sciences investor Syncona, but was also supported by LifeSci Venture Partners, the Emerson Collective and big pharma company Bristol Myers Squibb.
Company founder and CEO Chad Cowan, also a Harvard Stem Cell Institute group leader, and colleagues will use the funding to help build the company’s cell therapy platform. The platform focuses on immune cloaking of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and the differentiation of these cloaked cells into those that can be used to create therapies.
The basis of the company’s technology comes from work carried out in Cowan’s lab at Harvard looking at ways to develop cell therapies that will not immediately be attacked by the patient’s immune system.
“Clade was founded to overcome the clinical limitations of current cell therapies by addressing durability, patient compatibility, reproducibility and scalability to deliver on the transformative potential of this increasingly important therapeutic modality,” commented Cowan in a press statement about the launch.
Cowan has already been involved in several spinout companies and was one of the scientific founders of CRISPR Therapeutics. He was also previously the Chief Scientific Officer at Sana Biotechnology, which recently signed a deal with Beam Therapeutics to use its pioneering base-editing technology, essentially a more precise version of the original CRISPR technology.
Cowan’s lab at Harvard works on using gene editing to manipulate human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) and study the effects of mutations and create human cell-based models of disease that can be used to develop new therapeutics such as the ‘cloaked’ cells that Clade will focus on.
Although Cowan has worked on diabetes and other autoimmune diseases in the past, Clade will initially focus on targeting cancer with its therapies and is hoping to get a therapy into clinical trials within the next couple of years. It is the sixth cell therapy company in Syncona’s portfolio, which includes Nasdaq-listed Autolus Therapeutics and Achilles Therapeutics, and encompasses a range of different therapy types from CAR-T cell therapies to tumor infiltrating lymphocytes to macrophages.
The UK investor, which was founded in 2012 by Martin Murphy, now Syncona CEO, and the Wellcome Trust, has a strong focus on cell therapies and half the companies in its current portfolio are in this space. The other six include four gene therapy biotechs, one biologic and one small molecule-focused company.
“Clade’s inherent focus on developing therapies derived from a single engineered cell source has the potential to shift the paradigm of cell medicine with unprecedented scalability and standardization. We are thrilled to support Clade’s aggressive development of broadly accessible, off-the-shelf products with consistent pharmaceutical criteria to expand the reach of cell therapies across patients and indications,” says Murphy.