Startups, Venture

Focusing on the tumor microenvironment, OncoResponse garners $40 million for the next stage of the R&D journey

OncoResponse has entered the on-ramp for its immuno-oncology clinical plans. And the biotech now has a $40 million B round from a mix of mainstream and nontraditional investors to get them over the hurdle and into human studies.

The Seattle-based company has spent the last 3 years sorting through prospective antibodies identified through their research of the “elite responders” to checkpoint inhibitors, investigating the antibodies they produce in effectively repelling cancer. That work has been partnered with MD Anderson, which has been providing the tissue samples.

Clifford Stocks

Concentrating on the immunosuppressive nature of the tumor microenvironment, CEO Clifford Stocks tells me the company has come a long way in identifying some next-gen combo drugs for checkpoint inhibitors as well as their approach to preventing the exhaustion of natural killer cells — putting a “richer selection of immune cells into the tumor microenvironment.”

To complete the preclinical work on advancing 5 programs, the biotech has now raised $40 million. RiverVest Venture Partners led the round, which included new investors Qatar Investment Authority and Redmile Group, plus existing investors Alexandria Venture Investments, ARCH Venture Partners, HT Family Office, Canaan Partners, Helsinn Investment Fund and William Marsh Rice University.

“The funding will take us into 2021,” says the CEO, with “one or two INDs.”

The new money has also allowed the biotech to expand its base camp to 18 staffers, with plans to add a few more to the core team.

New staffers include Anil Singhal and Kamal Puri. Singhal is an AbbVie vet, where he worked on oncology, immunology and other diseases. Puri joined from Celgene, where he “discovered new molecular entities for the immunology pipeline and identified and supported new indications for portfolio molecules.” Singhal and Puri have been appointed CSO and vice president of R&D, respectively.

At this point, Stock says that he can see doing one more venture round ahead of an IPO as they garner solid human data for investors to look at. But, if the very earlier data is great, he can see advancing the timeline.

But all the stars would have to align. In the meantime, now that the B round is complete, Stocks wants to shift focus more to the partnering realm, hoping to build credibility with some high-profile allies in the business.

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VP Oncology Biology
Skyhawk Therapeutics Waltham, MA
Associate Director CMC
Elektroki Boston, MA
Director Process Development
Elektroki Boston, MA
Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT

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