Be The Match Takes Part in $100M Financing Round for Philly-based Immunotherapy Co.
Be The Match BioTherapies LLC, a recently created subsidiary of the Minneapolis-based National Marrow Donor Program/Be The Match, is expanding its activities as a biotechnology venture investor with its participation in an early-stage financing round for a promising immunotherapy start-up.
The nonprofit last week announced it had taken part in a $100 million Series A round for Philadelphia-based Tmunity Therapeutics, a private clinical-stage biotherapeutics company focused “on saving and improving lives by delivering the full potential of next-generation T cell immunotherapy.”
The venture play was the second recent biotech investment made by Be The Match: Last year it partnered with Magenta Therapeutics of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a biotech company developing therapies to improve and expand the use of curative stem cell transplantation for more patients.
Be The Match BioTherapies was established in 2016 and set up as a nonprofit limited liability company with a mission to “conduct certain business in the field of cellular therapy consistent with the nonprofit mission of its parent corporation, National Marrow Donor Program, but outside the scope of NMDP’s customary core business.”
Led by NMDP chief financial officer Amy Ronneberg, Be The Match BioTherapies is staking out ground as a stem cell industry investment player for companies whose efforts align with its own goals of advancing new cellular therapies.
It seems to have found that in Tmunity, a biotech company spun off from the work of cancer immunotherapy pioneer Dr. Carl June of the University of Pennsylvania. Along with Be The Match, its Series A investors included China’s Ping An Ventures, the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy (funded by billionaire investor Sean Parker) and pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences Inc.
Its seed round investors included the University of Pennsylvania and Lilly Asia Ventures.
“We are excited to support the mission of Tmunity Therapeutics, a promising early stage company that is working to build on the inspiring momentum of the field in creating personalized next-generation immunotherapies for cancer and other diseases,” Ronneberg said in a statement. “The pace of discovery in cell therapy is accelerating rapidly, and the potential impact is expanding from blood cancers into a wide range of therapeutic settings. We are working alongside other industry leaders to help shape the future direction of the field and bring life-changing innovation to patients.”
The proceeds from the Series A will be used to advance and expand Tmunity’s “translation, development and manufacture” of its portfolio of novel T cell-based immunotherapies, initially for the treatment of cancer.
June was one of the earliest scientific movers in the field using “CAR T cells” — a key component of the body’s immune system — to seek out and destroy cancer tumor cells in patients. The field has since become a hot investment space.
Under the procedure, CAR T-cells are enlisted to “retrain” the immune system to fight cancer. Doctors extract bone marrow from patients, then genetically engineer the T cells within. The modified cells are reintroduced with a transfusion and act as cancer-killers, multiplying and destroying malignancies.