Cell therapy pioneer Mark Frohlich takes the helm at tiny Indapta as a suite of big-name backers jump aboard
Off-the-shelf cell therapy has become a red-hot field of investment in recent years as the first rounds of human data start rolling out. Now, cell therapy startup Indapta Therapeutics is bringing in the big guns to drive its pipeline forward — including one of the field’s most esteemed names.
San Francisco-based Indapta has appointed Mark Frohlich, who previously ran portfolio strategy at Juno and before that the clinic shop at Dendreon, as its newest CEO, replacing founding helmsman Guy DiPierro, who will step into the role of chief strategy officer.
Frohlich brings with him a star-studded résumé, with his hands having touched both Breyanzi, the Juno-originated CAR-T that eventually found its way into Bristol Myers Squibb’s hands, as well as Provenge, which his clinic team ushered through at Dendreon.
With Indapta, Frohlich will be charged with a platform based on off-the-shelf “G-NK” cells, an even rarer form of the adaptive immune cells the company argues is more potent than your run-of-the-mill NK cells. Off-the-shelf, or allogeneic, cell therapies platforms like this have earned an immense amount of interest in recent years as an antidote to the laborious and cost-intensive process of crafting therapies from a patient’s own cells.
Indapta’s case is no different. In concert with Frohlich’s appointment, Indapta announced Thursday a $50 million Series A round to turbocharge its preclinical work with a who’s who of investors on board: RA Capital, Vertex Ventures, Leaps by Bayer, the Myeloma Investment Fund and Lonza.
Those big-name backers will also add their expertise to Indapta’s board with RA principal Laura Stoppel, Vertex Ventures managing director Lori Hu and Fabio Pucci, senior director of venture investments health at Leaps by Bayer, all joining.
“Mark is perfectly suited to lead Indapta as we move our unique G-NK cell therapy closer to clinical trials in patients with multiple myeloma and lymphoma,” Indapta co-founder Ronald Martell said in a statement. “His biopharma management pedigree, successful drug development track record and scientific acumen, together with our Series A financing from such an experienced syndicate of investors, will accelerate our ability to bring this innovative therapy to patients.”
Frohlich, for his part, had this to say about his appointment:
I joined Indapta because I believe its NK cell platform is truly differentiated and its preclinical data is particularly compelling. I’m excited to bring this off-the-shelf cell therapy to the clinic, where we have the potential to demonstrate it can benefit patients without the toxicities associated with currently approved cell therapies. I look forward to applying everything I’ve learned over the past two decades to develop this novel therapy.