NextPoint Therapeutics, a biotechnology company developing a new world of precision immuno-oncology, has raised $80 million in Series B financing co-led by Leaps by Bayer, the impact investment arm of Bayer AG, and Sanofi Ventures, the strategic venture capital arm for Sanofi.
The financing will be used to advance NextPoint’s two lead precision immuno-oncology programs into the clinic, both targeting the newly discovered HHLA2 pathway to activate anti-tumor immune responses.
Additional new investors in the round include Invus, Catalio Capital Management, Sixty Degree Capital and PagodaTree Partners. Existing investors that took part in the financing include MPM Capital Management, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Binney Street Capital and NextPoint founder Gordon Freeman, PhD. As part of the financing, Rakhshita Dhar, senior director of Venture Investments Health at Leaps by Bayer, and Paulina Hill, partner at Sanofi Ventures, will join the NextPoint Board of Directors.
NextPoint’s programs aim to deliver monotherapies for cancer patients without viable treatment options. While immune checkpoint inhibitors targeting PD-1/L1 have revolutionized cancer treatments, many patients do not benefit from these medications and require novel therapeutic strategies. Similar to PD-L1, the tumor antigen HHLA2 is a member of the B7 receptor family, is highly expressed on certain hard-to-treat cancers, and drives avoidance of detection from the immune system. Importantly, HHLA2 is independent of PD-L1 and is often most strongly expressed in PD-L1-negative cancers. NextPoint’s approach re-activates immune cells in tumors that are suppressed by HHLA2-driven immune evasion.
NextPoint originated from the combined expertise of its academic founders, Gordon Freeman, PhD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and XingXing Zang, PhD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Drs. Freeman’s and Zang’s independent discovery and characterization of the HHLA2 pathway formed the basis of the NextPoint approach. The company and its founders have shown in preclinical models and with analysis of existing clinical datasets that the HHLA2 pathway is an important tumor-suppressive mechanism in many patients.
“NextPoint is building a deep understanding of the HHLA2 tumor-specific immune-escape mechanism, with the ultimate goal of establishing standalone treatments in cancers with high HHLA2 expression,” said Detlev Biniszkiewicz, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of NextPoint Therapeutics. “The support of our new investors along with the continued commitment of our existing investors and founders emphasizes our momentum and progress in defining precision immuno-oncology for new patient segments.”
Juergen Eckhardt, MD, head of Leaps by Bayer, said: “Leaps by Bayer was founded to help solve ten of the world’s biggest challenges in health and agriculture, including preventing and curing cancer. We are thrilled to support NextPoint, an exciting addition to our oncology portfolio, as it works to redefine the treatment landscape of immuno-oncology.”