The German startup Rigontec has nailed an additional $16.5 million in financing, doubling their Series A as the RNA upstart opens a new office in Cambridge, MA and preps for its first clinical study in the red-hot immuno-oncology arena early next year.
The biotech is a pioneer of the RIG-I pathway, looking to ramp up an immune system attack on tumor cells by sticking with a route that has been attracting attention for the role it plays in the innate immune system. And the company owes a lot to the early research of Gunter Hartmann at the University of Bonn, who studied how RIG-I works naturally in activating an attack on viral pathogens.
The company is run by Christian Schetter, a biotech vet who has had senior positions at a couple of developers; Coley Pharmaceuticals, where he was a senior vice president, and Neovii Biotech, where he was CEO until 2014. During his career, he spent years studying the role of toll-like receptors in triggering an immune response, but in RIG-I Schetter believes he’s found a pathway that will be much more efficient for developing a safe and more effective immunotherapy.
The key here, he tells me, is developing a “highly specific activator,” triggering a natural killer cell response to tumor cells while then mediating “longterm immune memory against tumor cells.” The opportunity in cancer is fairly obvious, says the CEO, with a chance to try out new approaches for checkpoint combos and other match ups — a space where new deals keep coming at a steady pace. But he’s also mapping plans for a second pipeline for infectious diseases, where he says the same tech can have a big impact.
The new funding brings the total raised at Rigontec since it was founded in early 2014 to just about $33 million. The company has about 15 staffers now, says the CEO, and will probably see that grow to about 20-25 by the end of next year.
Their syndicate includes Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund, Forbion Capital Partners, High-Tech Gründerfonds, NRW.BANK, MP Healthcare Venture Management, Sunstone Capital and Wellington Partners Life Sciences.
The best place to read Endpoints News? In your inbox.
Comprehensive daily news report for those who discover, develop, and market drugs. Join 30,300+ biopharma pros who read Endpoints News by email every day.Free Subscription