Immuno-oncology, Venture

Celgene vet Barer lines up a $23M startup round for next-gen I/O tech out of Johns Hopkins

Sol Barer

After spending the past year in the hot seat as chairman at a badly dysfunctional Teva, Celgene co-funder Sol Barer can get back to the business of ramping up biotech startups. This morning we received word that Barer has lined up a $23 million A round to get I/O fledgling NexImmune into the clinic.

Barer, Joshua Barer and former Medtronic CEO William Hawkins got together early last year — around the time Teva began to come apart at the seams — to acquire the Johns Hopkins spinout, based in Gaithersburg, MD.

Jonathan Schneck

The big idea at NexImmune was fostered by Johns Hopkins professor Jonathan Schneck, who’s been designing nanoparticles to act as antigen-presenting cells to wave a red flag in the face of T cells — looking to incite an attack on cancer cells. If it works, the new tech could spark a more durable attack that would involve more targets and less likelihood of a setback for patients — particularly if they can make an impact on naïve and memory T cells to keep the human immune system on alert.

A Phase I/II trial can now get underway later this year.

New investor ArrowMark Partners joined Barer & Son Capital and Piedmont Capital Partners on the round, with Tony Yao at ArrowMark joining the board.

Barer has had his hands full as chairman of Teva, but after a lengthy search new CEO Kåre Schultz is now in charge of a controversial plan to tear the company down to a sustainable size, with 14,000 layoffs in the works.

“NexImmune has developed a very practical, precise system that may transform the way we use technology to direct the immune system,” Barer said in a statement.  “We are excited about the potential of this ‘next generation’ approach to help patients with a variety of cancers.”

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