– USA, MA – Catamaran Bio, Inc., a biotechnology company developing allogeneic CAR-NK cell therapies to treat cancer, today announced that the company has launched with a $42 million financing, including a Series A round co-led by Sofinnova Partners and Lightstone Ventures alongside participation by founding investor SV Health Investors, as well as Takeda Ventures and Astellas Venture Management.
Concurrent with the Series A financing, Maina Bhaman of Sofinnova Partners, Caroline Gaynor of Lightstone Ventures, and Rob Woodman of Takeda Ventures join Houman Ashrafian and Kevin Pojasek on the board of directors.
Proceeds will be used to advance the two lead chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-NK cell therapy programs. Also, funding will expand the company’s TAILWIND Platform, an integrated and proprietary suite of technologies for designing, genetically engineering, and manufacturing allogeneic CAR-NK cell therapies.
“In assembling the founding team at Catamaran, we saw an opportunity to pioneer a highly differentiated approach to develop allogeneic cell therapies using CAR-NK cells,” said Houman Ashrafian, Managing Partner, SV Health Investors, and a founder of Catamaran. “To date, the success of autologous CAR T-cell therapies in hematological malignancies has opened the door to the breakthrough potential of cell therapies for cancer, and Catamaran is now well-positioned to improve upon this groundwork by developing off-the-shelf CAR-NK cell therapies capable of reaching solid tumors.”
A novel approach to developing off-the-shelf cell therapies to address solid tumors
Catamaran’s TAILWIND Platform integrates proprietary capabilities to create novel, allogeneic CAR‑NK cell therapies by harnessing the natural cancer-fighting properties of natural killer cells and enhancing them with the power of synthetic biology and innovative NK cell engineering and manufacturing. With the TAILWIND Platform, CAR-NK cells are programmed with NK cell-specific CAR architectures and potency-boosting switches to neutralize the hostile tumor microenvironment and enable efficacy against diverse cancer types, especially solid tumors. Additionally, the TAILWIND Platform includes proprietary, non-viral NK cell engineering technology for efficient modification of NK cells with customized genetic programs enabled by synthetic biology. Catamaran’s CAR-NK cell therapies use healthy donor cells that are engineered and manufactured for off‑the‑shelf use, unlike current CAR-T cell therapies that use a patient’s own genetically modified T cells and require a customized, multi-week manufacturing process.
“Catamaran is focused on expanding the frontier of cell therapies to treat solid tumors and provide transformative benefit to cancer patients. We are doing this by creating allogeneic cell therapies that harness the innate cancer-fighting power of NK cells and enhancing them with new biologically-powerful attributes from our leading-edge technologies – all originating from our custom-built TAILWIND Platform for designing, engineering, and manufacturing off-the-shelf CAR-NK cell therapies,” said CSO, Dr. Vipin Suri.
During Catamaran’s stealth period, the start-up team assembled key components of the TAILWIND Platform and related intellectual property, including a set of potency-boosting cellular switches to enable therapeutic action in the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment of solid tumors, and it generated early proof of concept using a non-viral transposon system to efficiently deliver large genetic cargos into NK cells. Based on this early work, the company has rapidly advanced two lead CAR-NK cell therapy programs to the lead optimization stage.
“With its holistic and cutting-edge approach, Catamaran stands out in the rapidly-evolving NK cell field with a platform that addresses the full complement of capabilities necessary to develop CAR-NK cell therapies, while focusing on the high-impact technologies of synthetic biology and innovative gene delivery systems that can enable these new cell therapies to offer an extraordinary value in the field of cancer treatment,” said Maina Bhaman, Partner, Sofinnova Partners.
“Catamaran is positioned to open up new territory for cancer treatments with highly potent CAR-NK cell therapies, and we are confident in the experienced leadership team and the scientific expertise that is propelling the company’s research and development,” said Caroline Gaynor, Principal, Lightstone Ventures.
About Catamaran Bio
Catamaran Bio is developing novel, off-the-shelf CAR-NK cell therapies designed to treat a broad range of cancers, including solid tumors. Our proprietary capabilities enable us to harness the natural cancer-fighting properties of NK cells and enhance and tailor their effectiveness with the power of synthetic biology and innovative non-viral cell engineering. We are using our TAILWIND Platform, an integrated suite of technologies, to specifically address the end-to-end methods of engineering, processing, and manufacturing NK cells and rapidly advance our pipeline of CAR-NK cell therapy programs.
Our team combines experienced biopharmaceutical leadership with founding scientists who are pioneers in NK cell biology, engineering, manufacturing, and clinical application. Catamaran is backed by leading financial and corporate investors, including SV Health Investors, Sofinnova Partners, Lightstone Ventures, Takeda Ventures, and Astellas Venture Management.
For more information: https://catamaranbio.com/
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