Star team quietly raises $21M to launch the latest immuno-oncology startup Torque
Merrimack founder Ulrik Nielsen has brought together a team of experts to launch Torque Therapeutics, a new Kendall Square-based biotech that has its sights set on developing what you could call next-gen cell therapies on steroids. And according to a new SEC filing, they’ve raised the first $21 million of a $35 million launch round.
Torque has quietly but quickly been coming together at a fast pace. Backed by the biotech startup crew at Flagship Pioneering, which has been rapidly ramping up new drug developers while attracting a stellar lineup of top industry players, Bart Henderson left his job as president of Rhythm and jumped to the new team last month.
Thomas Lars Andresen, who taught at the Technical University of Denmark, is on board as co-founder in charge of discovery. And NIBR vet Becker Hewes is listed as the CMO on its web site while Doug Lauffenberger, a noted MIT professor who has been studying drug resistance in cancer, is listed as a principal on the SEC filing.
Vikas Sinha, who left Alexion late last year after an internal probe of the company’s sales practices, is also involved.
To put it mildly, the team has some vaunting ambitions to revolutionize cell therapies as we know it. The game now is to make better cell therapies, capable of mounting a fierce attack on cancer cells with a platform tech that has implications for CAR-T, TCRs, NK cells and antigen specific T cells.
They call it Deep-Priming:
Our Deep-Priming platform is based on more than 10 years of research and development focused on taking very potent immunomodulatory drugs—cytokines, antibodies, and small molecules—that have the ability to activate and protect T cells from this “hostile” tumor microenvironment. Administering these immunomodulators systemically to a patient can cause lethal toxicity, activating immune cells throughout the body. Instead, we want to activate only the T cells that are going after the tumor, and we do this by anchoring the immunomodulators to the surface of the immune cell to act locally, in the microenvironment.
The Boston Business Journal was the first to report the SEC filing.