Look for yet another player working in the immuno-oncology space to enter the clinic with a nimble team of experienced execs focused on dismantling immunosuppression.
Palo Alto-based Immune-Onc announced today that co-founder Charlene Liao has wooed fellow Genentech vets Adrian Jubb and An Song to join her in prepping the startup for first-in-human studies, fueled by $33 million in Series B funding. Northern Light Venture Capital, Vivo Capital and the Stanford-StartX Fund are touted as the star investors in the round.
For Jubb, the chief medical officer, this marks a return to oncology after a four-year stint at antibiotics company Achaogen. There, as head of early development, he had a direct hand in building the case for the experimental plazomicin, which eventually gained approval for one (but not the other) indication it filed for.
Song jumps directly from Genentech, leaving behind a 16-year tenure and a senior director position supervising the assay development and technology group. She will now have broad authority over the startup’s translational development, including “preclinical PKPD and toxicology evaluation, clinical pharmacology, bioanalytical and biomarker/diagnostic development and certain analytical aspects of technical development.”
“As we prepare to move from translational research into the clinic, Adrian and An’s decades of industry expertise in drug development will be critical in advancing our mission to develop novel biotherapeutics for hard-to-treat cancers,” said Liao, who’s also president and CEO of Immune-Onc.
With 14 years of drug development experience at Genentech under her belt, Liao struck out on her own in 2016 to start Immune-Onc with Guo-Liang Yu, who previously founded and sold the antibody company Epitomics to Abcam. They got started with a $7 million Series A and are now pursuing IND-enabling studies for the lead program, which might have applications in acute myeloid leukemia as well as other hematologic and solid tumors.
The company isn’t divulging much about the program, except that it targets “an immune inhibitory receptor.” That fits into Immune-Onc’s overall strategy to disarm immune suppression and tumor infiltration — a strategy cemented on licensing and collaboration deals with leading research institutions like Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
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