Arch Oncology, one of the older startups in a crop of immuno-oncology players chasing after the CD47 target, has bagged $50 million to fuel a long drive in the clinic that recently began.
Some might remember the company as Tioma Therapeutics, breaking out in 2016 with some years of preclinical work and investments from GlaxoSmithKline, Roche and Novo. A year later, it renamed itself to Arch Oncology and brought in new CEO Julie Cherrington to replace John Donovan in pursuit of a “more highly differentiated” compound.
In the process, RiverVest Venture Partners, Roche Venture Fund and 3×5 Partners became the main backers, all of whom participated in the Series B, led by new investor Lightchain. Lightchain is the family office of Rodger Riney, a billionaire, multiple myeloma survivor and St. Louis resident who’s previously donated to the Washington University School of Medicine — where Brisbane, CA-based Arch had its scientific roots.
Both the corporate/clinical development team in the Bay Area and the research group at St. Louis will be expanding in the coming year, bringint the total headcount from 20 to 30, Cherrington tells me.
The big idea at Arch Oncology — popularized by the likes of Forty Seven and Boehringer Ingelheim — is to block the “don’t eat me” signal emitted by CD47 and thereby help immune cells spot and destroy cancer.
What makes its lead program different, the biotech says, is that in addition to tearing down the barrier for macrophages and inciting a T cell response, AO-176 also works by directly killing tumor cells, further activating the adaptive immune response.
The hypothesis is now being tested in a Phase I trial, with a slate of discovery-stage candidates lining up to follow. Programs range from SIRPα (a protein on the surface of macrophages that’s key to CD47 signalling) to other targets harnessing the power of innate immunity, according to Cherrington.
“We believe AO-176 has a best-in-class profile among agents in the anti-CD47 space and we are excited to see the progress advancing the pipeline,” John McKearn, managing director of RiverVest and chairman of Arch Oncology, said in a statement.
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