Verseau Therapeutics has launched this week with $50 million in financing to develop first-in-class macrophage-targeted immunotherapies.
Funding came from 20/20 HealthCare Partners, 3SBio, Alexandria Venture Investments, Highlight Capital, InHarv Partners Ltd., The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research and Yonghua Capital.
George Golumbeski, former Executive Vice President of Celgene, has been appointed Chairman of the Verseau Board of Directors.
The proceeds from the financing will support advancement of Verseau’s macrophage checkpoint modulator (MCM) programs to the clinic.
Macrophages can adopt different functional roles in response to signals from their environment, including the ability to direct pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory immune responses.
Verseau has licensed an siRNA delivery technology, a lipid nanoparticle, from the MIT laboratories of Verseau’s co-founders Dan Anderson and Bob Langer.
Verseau is using such delivery technologies as part of its all human translational system to discover and validate novel macrophage targets, creating an expansive pipeline of macrophage checkpoint modulators.
The lead program targeting PSGL-1 reprograms macrophages to a pro-inflammatory state, activates T-cells and attracts other immune cells to generate a coordinated and powerful antitumor response.
“Current immunotherapies can only provide clinical benefit in the 25% of cancers that involve T-cell infiltration. By targeting macrophages, present in 75% of human tumours, we believe we can offer potential clinical benefits of immunotherapy to a large, underserved patient population,” said Christine Bunt, CEO of Verseau.
“Macrophage modulation as monotherapy and in combination with other therapies could provide enhanced clinical benefit for patients.”
Tatiana Novobrantseva, co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Verseau, said: “Using our proprietary discovery and validation platform, we identified PSGL-1, an adhesion molecule that is highly expressed on tumour-associated macrophages across most tumour types, as the target of our first-in-class MCM program.
“Our PSGL-1 MCM antibody is designed to reprogram inhibitory tumour-associated macrophages into anti-cancer immune response stimulators. Verseau has validated more than two dozen targets amenable to different therapeutic modalities, including monoclonal antibodies.”
Verseau has a strategic collaboration with 3SBio. Under the agreement, 3SBio will receive an exclusive license to develop and commercialise a select number of MCM antibodies for all human oncology indications in Greater China. Verseau retains all global rights.