One of the most advanced, well-financed biotechs in the Bay Area just landed a $75 million B round to continue its clinical work.
Forty Seven, a startup that was spun out of Irv Weissman’s lab at Stanford, doubled down on the similar-sized A round from last year, with Google’s venture arm GV coming back alongside new investor Wellington Management Company LLP, with participation from existing investors Clarus, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sutter Hill Ventures.
Their money will be used to fund a slate of early-stage studies for its lead drug, Hu5F9-G4, an antibody targeting CD47. And Forty Seven execs are already setting the stage for registration studies.
Weissman was able to move into the clinic with this therapy before spinning it out into a new and highly promising company. That’s an unusual twist in the academic world, but Weissman was able to capitalize on close relations with the then head of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Back in 2009, Weissman scored a $20 million grant for his work on CD47 with four years of funding for his preclinical research on AML. Another $12.7 million arrived in 2013, heralded by CIRM’s Alan Trounson — who took over the agency in 2007 — as “the sharp end of the CIRM program – we need to get therapies into clinical trials.”
A week after Trounson left the helm of CIRM in 2014 — after CIRM had provided more than $30 million in support to Weissman’s CD47 work — he wound up side by side with Weissman on the board of StemCells, which the Stanford professor had also founded, and to which CIRM had provided millions in grants.
CD47 scrambles a key immune response that helps guard a range of tumor types by preventing a process called phagocytosis, in which the cancer cells are devoured by a phagocyte. That’s what the researchers call a “don’t eat me” effect. And Forty Seven believes it can influence both the adaptive as well as the innate immune systems, two big targets in immuno-oncology.
The treatment also promises to whip up a T-cell attack on cancer “through cross-presentation of cancer cell antigens by macrophages, preventing engraftment of tumors expressing a cross-presented antigen into animals.”
“Forty Seven continues to make tremendous progress across multiple clinical trials,” said CEO Mark McCamish. “The financing allows us to rigorously explore the clinical response of different tumors to Hu5F9-G4 mono- and combination therapy and determine the optimal pathway to rapidly bring this new treatment option to patients.”
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