Immetas Therapeutics nabs $11M Series A to narrow their bispecific work targeting inflammation in age-related diseases
How does a biotech celebrate its two-year anniversary? For Immetas Therapeutics, it’s with an $11 million Series A round and a game plan to fight age-related disease.
Co-founders Gene Wang and David Sinclair came together years ago around the idea that inflammation is the ultimate process driving age-related illnesses, including cancer. The duo launched Immetas in 2018 and packed the staff with industry experts. Wang, who says he’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit, has held lead roles at Novartis, GSK, Bristol Myers Squibb and Merck. He’s worked on blockbuster drugs like Humira, Gardasil, Varubi and Zolinza. And now, he’s channeling that spirit as CEO.
Sinclair, scientific advisor, was named by Time as one of its “50 Most Influential People in Healthcare,” and director of Harvard University’s Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research. He also helped found Sirtris, the biotech that GlaxoSmithKline bought in 2008 for $720 million in cash, then shut down five years later. Immetas CSO Jonah Rainey’s resume includes leading AstraZeneca’s bispecific team.
The financing round — from Morningside Ventures — will be used for “engineering the weapon” against cancer and osteoarthritis, Wang said.
Age-specific cancer incidence rates spike in the 55- to 59-year-old cohort, with the highest incidence rates in 85- to 89-year-olds, he pointed out in a Zoom interview. “So aging has a significant role in the pathogenesis of cancer and progression of cancer. And that’s what we’re focusing on,” he said of the company’s lead program.
The NJ-based biotech has six bispecific candidates targeting “control of inflammation in the tumor microenvironment as a way to overcome the resistance to immune checkpoint therapy,” Wang said. The candidates are designed to block pro-inflammatory pathways in the tumor microenvironment, fighting cells that promote cancer growth and suppress immune response.
“Cancer immunotherapy … specifically in checkpoint therapy, revolutionized cancer treatment in recent years, as you know. But there’s still a large unmet medical need and many cancer types we call cold tumors, right, they do not respond,” Wang said. “So vast majorities of patients with cancer still do not benefit with traditional cancer immunotherapy,” he added later.
In osteoarthritis, synovial inflammation leads to cartilage erosion, Wang explained. Immetas is working on an intra-articular injection that could mute macrophage and lymphocyte activity, and downregulate pro-inflammatory cytokine levels.
By the end of the year, researchers plan to narrow the six candidates in preclinical development for age-related cancer down to one. The company could submit an IND application for the winner in early 2022, according to Wang.