Some of the pioneers in oncolytics drug development have gone back to the venture well to finance their latest play in the field. Replimune, which got started in Oxford and is based in Woburn, MA, tanked up with $55 million in venture cash. That money is being used to position the company for its first round of clinical work.
Replimune is bringing in a recognized expert in the immuno-oncology field as CMO alongside the round. The biotech recruited Howard Kaufman, who had been chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and from 2014-2016 was president of the Society for the Immunotherapy of Cancer.
Replimune is one of several up-and-coming biotechs that hope to do better than the first entry in the field. The approach uses oncolytic viruses to specifically infect cancer cells and destroy them while flagging the immune system to send in the sentinels for a followup attack.
Company founder Robert Coffin was the CSO at BioVex when Amgen scooped up the company and its lead drug, talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC), now sold as Imlygic. Philip Astley-Sparke — a partner at Forbion — is the former CEO at BioVex and is now executive chairman at Replimune.
According to their web site, Amgen has now paid off $675 million of the $1 billion deal offered to snag that drug.
It’s no great surprise that Forbion was an existing investor and came back for the B round, along with Atlas Venture and Omega Funds. Foresite Capital led the latest round with a group of new investors including Bain Capital Life Sciences, Redmile Group, Cormorant Asset Management.
Brett Zbar from Foresite Capital will join Replimune’s board of directors along with Kapil Dhingra, a Roche vet and well known cancer expert on several biotech boards.