Startups, Venture

Backed by Big Pharma VCs, Palleon ramps up a new approach to immuno-oncology with a $48M startup round

A couple of years ago, GSK’s venture arm SR One brought in Jim Broderick as its first-ever entrepreneur-in-residence. And today, they’re backing his new cancer R&D play, helping bankroll a $47.6 million startup round for his upstart biotech Palleon.

Jim Broderick

These past two years have included an education in the converging roles of glycoscience and human immunology, Broderick tells me. Starting with observations on the varying role of glycans in either activating or braking the immune system, his search involved bringing together some of the top scientists in the field.

“I got intrigued with this,” says Broderick. “It was an under-explored area.”

Now Palleon and Broderick plan to resolve all that.

The company has been hatching what it’s dubbed Glycoimmune Checkpoints, binding to the sugar molecules found on cell surfaces, which have evolved as tumors developed different means of hiding from an immune system assault. That approach offers a new, much broader pathway to mounting an immune system attack on cancer cells, which Palleon intends to exploit.

In particular, Broderick is pumped by the prospect that unique patterns of glycans can be used to identify which patients are most likely to respond, offering a more targeted development strategy.

Broderick has been involved in a slate of biotech startups, including his role as chairman and co-founder at Ra Pharmaceuticals. There are two key scientific co-founders in his corner now: Howard Hughes investigator Carolyn Bertozzi at Stanford and Paul Crocker, professor of glycoimmunology and head of the division of cell signaling and immunology at the University of Dundee, Scotland. That gives you an idea of the global nature behind the small, Waltham, MA-based biotech.

Along the way, Broderick says he’s become enamored with the approach of the big corporate venture arms in the industry. That helps explain his syndicate: SR One, Pfizer Ventures, Vertex Ventures HC (out of Singapore), Takeda Ventures and AbbVie Ventures.

SR One president Jens Eckstein said:

We are very excited about the launch of Palleon. Within the dynamic field of immuno-oncology, Palleon has forged an entirely new pathway for targeting the immune system. The unique features of Glycoimmune Checkpoints will make possible a much wider range of rational combination therapies to treat cancer.

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