Investing & Startups| September 17, 2018
Atreca’s $125M round brings new immunotherapy closer to clinical trials
Atreca, Inc., a biotechnology company focused on developing novel therapeutics based on a deep understanding of the human immune response, announced the closing of an oversubscribed $125 million financing on September 12th.
Main investor remains undisclosed
This Series C round was led by a previous Atreca investor who remained undisclosed, being presented only as a large U.S.-based, healthcare-focused fund. Other existing investors, including Wellington Management Company LLC, and Cormorant Asset Management, based in Boston, took part in this latest funding round. They were joined by various new investors: Aisling Capital, Boxer Capital of the Tavistock Group, EcoR1 Capital, Redmile Group, Samsara BioCapital, and Tekla Capital Management-run funds.
President and CEO John Orwin said the result of this oversubscribed series C round was good and should give the company runway through 2020. The exclusive placement agent in this financement was Cowen.
“This funding enables us to broaden and accelerate our discovery and pipeline generation efforts and to move our first candidate into clinical development,” said John A. Orwin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Atreca.
Money will help Atreca advance its lead candidate into clinical trials
“Our oversubscribed Series C financing provides further validation of Atreca’s ability to discover and develop high-potential therapeutic candidates via its unique approach,” said Brian Atwood, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Atreca. “The quality of the investor syndicate and magnitude of the round reflects the value we have built in our discovery capabilities and the progress we have made in our preclinical programs since our Series B financing just a year ago.”
Atreca’s aim is ambitious and should give hope to patients suffering from solid tumors, including breast, lung, and colon cancers. With these newly acquired funds, the company will be able to advance its lead candidate, ATR101, into clinical development.
The therapeutic antibody acts as a driver of antigen engagement, according to the company’s press release. The company said the Immune Repertoire Capture technology that profiles a patient’s immune response at the single-cell level at very high throughput helped Atreca discover ATR101. President and CEO John Orwin declined to disclose the compound’s target.
Immunotherapy, how it works and why it is efficient
The immune response, or immune reaction, is a bodily reaction that occurs when lymphocytes identify an antigen molecule as foreign and induce the formation of antibodies and lymphocytes capable of rendering it harmless.
When describing the way the immune system works, it is helpful to think of the body as a battlefield. Every moment we breathe, a battle between good and bad takes place inside our bodies. The good is the immune system, which consists of cells designed to defend the body from infection and disease. The bad comes in various forms, such as bacteria, pathogens, viruses and also mutated cells, all of which are programmed to harm us. Immunotherapy strengthens the immune system, enabling it to better fight. In cancer cases, the good mostly loses, at least at first. New immunotherapy treatments, such as the one OncoResponse is trying to develop with help from a recent successful $40 million funding round, are ensuring the healthcare system will eventually have enough weapons to successfully fight cancer and other immune related diseases.
There are numerous other ways new technologies help the healthcare system; even if there is an efficient treatment, one might need to target the tumor exactly, without affecting nearby healthy organs or tissue. MIT scientists, for example, invented a device to help medical staff better direct the beam in proton therapy.
Exploring for ideal antibodies using cancer patients’ tissue samples
Atreca’s work is based on a tech platform that takes tissue samples from cancer patients to explore for ideal antibodies, using B cells as their sounding board. According to Atreca’s CEO, John Orwin, the B cells they interrogate “are extremely information-rich cells” that researchers can use to “capture the sequence information used in bioinformatics to turn into reagents with an eye to developing antibodies.” “It’s the way we generate the data and the way we use the data to select what we take into preclinical testing and the way we do preclinical testing that we think gives us significant competitive advantages,” he adds.
“This first candidate, generated by our unique Discovery Engine and via our proprietary Immune Repertoire Capture® (IRC™) technology, represents a novel and potentially fundamental new class of oncology immunotherapeutics. We appreciate the support of both our new and existing investors as we advance the Company to this next stage of development,” said John A. Orwin
About Atreca, Inc.
Atreca is a privately held biotechnology company developing novel therapeutics based on a deep understanding of the human immune response. It focuses on the patient immune responses in a unique way in therapeutic areas where such responses are the key phenomenon driving clinical outcomes, enabling us to discover and develop novel immunotherapies. Atreca is advancing a pipeline of candidates designed to engage the human immune response in oncology and other indications, thus driving better therapeutic outcomes.