Arix Bioscience Gets in on Bay Area Cancer Biotech Harpoon's $45 Million Funding Round

Arix Bioscience Gets in on Bay Area Cancer Biotech Harpoon's $45 Million Funding Round May 25, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Harpoon Therapeutics, based in South San Francisco, Calif., announced it had closed a Series B financing worth $45 million. It was co-led by Arix Bioscience and New Leaf Venture Partners. It was joined by Taiho Ventures, as well as existing investor MPM Capital.

Harpoon plans to use the funds to advance its tri-specific T-cell activating construct (TriTAC) immuno-oncology platform, as well as its two lead programs, into clinical trials. It also plans to expand the product pipeline through discovery and partnering initiatives.

“We are delighted to have top-tier investors supporting the Series B financing, and welcome new investors as Harpoon shareholders,” said Jerry McMahon, Harpoon’s president and chief executive officer, in a statement. “This investment is a clear validation of Harpoon’s TriTAC platform, which offers a new way to unleash the targeted cell-killing properties of a patient’s own immune system with a potential best-in-class T-cell engager platform.”

Founded in 2015, the company’s Series A closed in April 2016 for $15 million. In December 2016, the company named Gerald McMahon as president and chief executive officer, replacing its interim CEO and co-founder Patrick Baeuerle. Baeuerle, an MPM managing director, continues to serve on the company’s board of directors.

McMahon was previously president and chief executive officer of Kolltan Pharmaceuticals, where he led the acquisition by Celldex . Before that he held positions at MedImmune , the biologics arm of AstraZeneca , where he was senior vice president of R&D Oncology, and at Bay City Capital, where he was a Venture Partner.

As part of the Series B, Mark Chin, investment manager at Arix, and Ron Hunt, managing director at New Leaf, will join Harpoon’s board of directors. Also, Sakae Asanuma, president of Taiho Ventures, will join the board as an observer.

“Harpoon Therapeutics hash a novel, T-cell engager platform which we believe will be instrumental to the discovery and development of important new therapeutics in oncology,” said Chini in a statement. “Coupled with its scientific expertise and strong management team, Harpoon is well-positioned to play a leading role in the immuno-oncology field.”

The company’s first clinical candidate is HPN424, a prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA)-targeting TriTAC. It is planned to begin Phase I clinical trials next year for metastatic prostate cancer. The company also hopes to identify and move more clinical candidates into the clinic next year.

The company says that its approach “has been optimized to penetrate tissues and extend serum exposure, and has the potential to address a broad range of cancers, including solid tumors, and immunologic diseases.”

“We have been strong advocates of Harpoon Therapeutics from inception, and are pleased to participate in this latest round of financing, which provides capital to transition Harpoon to a clinical-stage company as well as to advance critical discovery and research efforts,” said Luke Evnin, co-founder and chairman of Harpoon, and founder and managing director at MPM Capital, in a statement.

On May 23, Harpoon renewed the license and option agreement with Isogenica that it had originally signed in June 2016. Under the original deal, Isogenica granted Harpoon licenses to its family of LlamdA VHH single-domain antibody libraries. Isogenica is entitled to an upfront and annual license payments. If antibodies are advanced into development, Isogenica is also entitled to upfront payments, license fees and milestone payments.

“We are delighted that Harpoon, one of our earliest VHH library licensees, has made the decision to renew this license and option agreement,” said Adam Collier, Isogenica’s director of Commercial Development, in a statement. “Isogenica sees this as further validation of the library in a truly operational setting. With our unique synthetic antibody libraries and leading biopharmaceutical discovery technologies, Isogenica is uniquely positioned to create significant value and opportunities for our partners.”

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