Pharma vets with Genentech connection band together to launch new immunotherapy startup, though details are scant
On Thursday, three researchers announced they had started up a new immunotherapy biotech called LTZ Therapeutics, short for “Lift To Zenith,” and launched with a modest raise they’re calling a “pre-Series A.” In total, it’s a $17 million round, led by K2 Venture Partners and assisted by Qiming Venture Partners and Tigermed.
There are few details so far, but the company is making an initial impression thanks to a direct connection to Genentech.
LTZ Therapeutics, with offices in China, California and Germany, has three co-founders: Robert Li, Jianhui Zhou and Martin Treder. Li, the CEO, has had a lengthy career in pharma, having worked for Novartis, Roche, Bristol Myers Squibb and Genentech.
While at Genentech for five years, Li had worked his way up to immunology therapeutic area lead, safety assessment before going out to Vir Biotechnology, the GlaxoSmithKline partner known for their Covid-19 monoclonal antibody sotrovimab. And before Li officially started working on forming LTZ back in January, he was the CEO of LintonPharm, a Chinese oncology biotech.
Li worked with Zhou at Genentech, who will now serve as the SVP of biologics discovery and CTO at LTZ. Zhou spent eight years at the Roche subsidiary as a senior researcher, specializing in antibody engineering.
The final co-founder, Treder, has most recently spent time as the CSO at multiple biotechs in the last few years. While info on his role at LTZ is yet unconfirmed, Treder worked at Arjuna Therapeutics, Affimed and CT Atlantic. Affimed had previously signed a deal with Genentech in 2018 to develop NK cell engagers for a whopping $5 billion in milestones.
Treder left Affimed the following year to pursue other opportunities, including a stint as an independent consultant, before joining Arjuna in 2020.
Members of LTZ’s new scientific advisory board also have history at Genentech, and LTZ named three of them: former VP of protein sciences Sarah Hymowitz, former VP of research and early development Greg Cosma, and former executive director of oncology biomarker development Lukas Amler.
Despite the scant details on company plans, here is what we know: The company is looking at cancer as an initial starting point — along with other unnamed diseases.
The biotech said in a statement that the funds from the financing will be used to develop the company’s three-pronged platform, establish its initial pipeline and to further build LTZ’s operations team. That ‘three-pronged platform,’ Li said in a statement, is to reduce immunosuppression, re-program innate immunity and modulate adaptive immunity.