Cancer Startup Torque Therapeutics Nabs $21 Million and Sets Up Shop in Kendall Square

Published: Aug 31, 2017

Cancer Startup Torque Therapeutics Nabs $21 Million and Sets Up Shop in Kendall Square
August 30, 2017
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Torque Therapeutics has come out of stealth mode to launch with a $21 million Series A financing. It is looking to raise another $14 million, according to its filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Torque will be headquartered in Kendal Square in Cambridge, Mass., and focus on what John Carroll, writing for Endpoints News calls “next-gen cell therapies on steroids.”

The company describes its new class of Deep-Primed immune cells for cancer as a tech platform that anchors biotherapeutics such as stimulatory cytokines, antibodies, and small molecules directly to immune cells to stimulate direct immune responses. Its preclinical lead candidate, Deep IL-15, has shown increased T-cell proliferation, engraftment and tumor cell killing and the company expects to launch its first clinical trials in the first half of 2018.

The company’s cofounders are Ulrik Nielsen, previous founder of Merrimack (MACK). He will act as chief executive officer. Bart Henderson, who is president of Torque, was previously president and founder of Rhythm and its subsidiary, Motus, which was acquired by Allergan (ALGN). Thomas Lars Andresen will lead discovery at Torque. Since 2007, he has been a professor and group leader of the Colloids and Biological Interfaces group at DTU Nanotech. He was also head of the DTU Center for Nanomedicine and Theranostics.

Rounding off the top executives is Becker Hewes, who will be Torque’s chief medical officer. He most recently acted as executive medical director at Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research.

The company’s Scientific Advisory Board includes Darrell Irvine, one of the co-founders, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Catherine Bollard,professor of Pediatrics and Immunology at The George Washington University and chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children’s National, Washington, DC; Malcom Brenner, founding director of the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at Baylor College of Medicine; Dane Wittrup, C.P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biological Engineering at MIT and Associate Director of MIT’s Koch Institute; Cassian Yee, a clinical oncologist and professor in the Departments of Melanoma Medical Oncology and Immunology, Director of Solid Tumor Cell Therapy, and Co-Director of the Adoptive Cellular Therapy Platform at MD Anderson Cancer Center; and Peter Zandra, professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering and at the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomedical Research.

The company states, “Our Deep-Priming platform is based on more than 10 years of research and development focused on taking very potent immunomodulatory drugs—cytokines, antibodies, and small molecules—that have the ability to activate and protect T cells from this ‘hostile’ tumor microenvironment. Administering these immunomodulators systemically to a patient can cause lethal toxicity, activating immune cells throughout the body. Instead, we want to activate only the T cells that are going after the tumor, and we do this by anchoring the immunomodulators to the surface of the immune cell to act locally, in the microenvironment.”

Carroll writes, “To put it mildly, the team has some vaunting ambitions to revolutionize cell therapies as we know it. The game now is to make better cell therapies, capable of mounting a fierce attack on cancer cells with a platform tech that has implications for CAR-T, TCRs, NK cells and antigen specific T cells.”

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