Bayer Takes a Leap for Off-the-Shelf NK Cell Therapy

Money Dollar Bill

Bayer’s investment arm is taking another “leap” for cell therapies, joining in the $50 million Series A for San Francisco’s Indapta Therapeutics. 

Like many current immunotherapy-focused biotechs, Indapta is harnessing the power of the body’s natural killer (NK) cells to fight cancerous intruders. This biotech is focused on a subset of NK cells, the G-NK cells, to create an off-the-shelf therapeutic donated from healthy donors without any need for genetic engineering. 

G-NKL cells have increased potency when compared to conventional natural killers. Indapta has found them particularly potent when combined with a monoclonal antibody (mAb) treatment. When the mAb binds to the tumor target and the G-NK cell, the cancer-killing compounds released are dramatically increased. 

Indapta’s G-NK cell therapies do better and last longer in storage through specific selection and proprietary manufacturing, making them available and more ready to use. 

While last year’s dreams had the company on track to begin trials in 2021, reality has them gearing up for the task in 2022. The proceeds from this Series A will fuel the advancement of Indapta’s allogeneic NK cell platform toward a New Drug Application and into clinical trials. 

The golden state company is also expanding the team to tackle this newest challenge, bringing in a new CEO to hopefully take its promising platform to market. Taking the helm from the founding CEO, Guy DiPierro, who will now become chief strategy officer, is Dr. Mark Frohlich, M.D. 

Frohlich has a vast resume in the oncology immunotherapies world. While the last few years have found him consulting and serving on boards for oncology biotech companies, he was in the C-suite at Juno Therapeutics as EVP of portfolio strategy. Juno developed Breyanzi to fight large B-cell lymphoma. The company was then bought up, and Bristol-Myers Squibb brought the drug through approval to commercialization last year. 

He’s had his hand in bringing one of the first cancer immunotherapies to the market as CMO and EVP at Dendreon. In the early 2000s, Frohlich led the clinical team responsible for development and approval. 

“Mark is perfectly suited to lead Indapta as we move our unique G-NK cell therapy closer to clinical trials in patients with multiple myeloma and lymphoma,” said Ronald Martell, co-founder and chairman of the board. 

This round was co-led by RA Capital Management, LP, Vertex Ventures and Leaps by Bayer. Leaps has been dropping dollars into quite a few companies the last few weeks. A Vancouver startup combining the power of cryo-electron microscopy with AI snagged $40 million in its Series A led by Leaps. The previous week, two cell therapy companies caught the investment team’s eye for gene editing programs and AI-powered cell therapies

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