UPDATED: French biotech raises $75M for new cell therapy manufacturing tech, Parkinson's treatment
A French cell therapy startup is getting two new offices in opposite parts of the world, and a new CEO to boot as it announces a new round of funding Monday.
Biotech TreeFrog Therapeutics, which is focused on stem cell therapy, closed a $75 million Series B, the company announced. The round brings the company’s total funding to $83 million, and allows them to open up offices in Boston and Kobe, Japan, as it advances its biomimetic C-Stem technology for clinical manufacturing. The US office will start with a staff of around 10 to 15 people, but if all goes well, that will change quickly.
As a part of the expansion, board member Frédéric Desdouits has been hired as the company’s CEO, and executive vice president Kévin Alessandri will move to Boston to oversee the new office. As far as the new offices are concerned, the move to Boston was at least partially inspired by the investment from Bristol Myers Squibb. As the capabilities of the technology are discovered, the team wants to be close to its partners, as it collaborates with other players.
“They came in because we are a very young company…and we are learning about the potential of the technology almost every month,” Desdouits said in a phone call with Endpoints News Monday. “We know we have a disruptive technology…we know we bring something new, and we know it’s going to take time.”
Desdouits has been with Tree Frog as a part-time advisor for nearly two years. He’s served as a director for Genfit, a French therapeutics company focused on liver disease, for more than 7 years before that, and was the managing director of French CDMO Seqens until July 2020.
“In just two years and, with only $7M in Series A funding, the TreeFrog Therapeutics team transitioned C-StemTM from the bench to an industrial technology applicable to any cell therapy. We demonstrated that C-StemTM outperforms all existing technologies for pluripotent stem cell expansion in terms of scale and quality,” he said in a statement. “We also confirmed best-in-class preclinical data for our cell therapy program for Parkinson’s disease.”
The company was founded in 2018 in Bordeaux, France. Its financing was led by Bpifrance Large Venture, a function of the French Public Investment Bank that invests in life sciences and green technology, and Leonard Green & Partners, a Los Angeles-based private equity firm focused on healthcare. European venture capital group XAnge also led the round.
C-Stem allows for the mass production of stem cells in industrial bioreactors, which TreeFrog says can improve the quality of cells and reduce the cost over existing technologies. In June 2020, the team’s 50 employees moved into a 13,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in France. This April, it produced its first batch of stem cells in a 10-liter bioreactor.
“In short, funding, management and governance are now secured, as we embark on a very exciting journey, with the deployment of technological hubs in Kobe, Japan, and Boston, MA, and the prospect of treating our first patients in 2024,” Alessandri said in a press release.
As a part of the financing round, Laurent Higueret of Bpifrance Large Venture and Peter Zippelius of Leonard Green & Partners will join the board of directors. Girish Pendse of Bristol Myers Squibb will join as an observer.