CAR-T Drugmaker Poseida Snags $142 Million in Financing Led by Novartis

dollar sign with DNA in background

In January, San Diego-based Poseida Therapeutics eyed a potential $115 million initial public offering to support the development of its CAR-T medicines to treat various blood and solid tumors. The company seems to have scrapped that and instead raised $142 million, with significant support from Novartis.

This morning, the CAR-T drugmaker said Swiss pharma giant Novartis supported the company’s Series C financing round with a $75 million equity investment. For Novartis, which was also the first company in the U.S. to be approved for a CAR-T treatment, the investment in Poseida comes several months after Novartis Chief Executive Officer Vas Narasimhan announced plans at the J.P. Morgan Conference to be on top of the next wave of innovations in gene and cell therapies. Other participants in the round included Aisling Capital Management, Pentwater Capital Management, Perceptive Advisors as well as additional undisclosed institutional investors.

Eric Ostertag, Poseida’s chief executive officer, touted the support from Novartis, a company with a keen focus on cell and gene therapies. Ostertag said the financial support will allow the company to accelerate its pursuit to “create gene therapy product candidates that could result in single-treatment cures for numerous oncologic indications and orphan genetic diseases, with an initial focus on chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapies.”

Poseida’s lead product candidate is P-BCMA-101, which is being developed for relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma. Poseida is currently enrolling patients in a Phase II registrational trial with outpatient treatment – meaning the patients won’t have to be admitted to the hospital for post-treatment monitoring. Initial dosing is expected to begin in the first half of 2019, the company said.

At the 2018 American Society of Hematology meeting in December, Poseida revealed data that showed all 23 patients in each of the five cohorts had responded to P-BCMA-101 and showed improved markers of disease. Overall, of the 19 patients evaluable by International Myeloma Working Group criteria, 15 showed meaningful responses, including 13 who reached stringent complete response, complete response, VGPR or partial response, the company said. Of those, five showed stringent complete responses, the company said. P-BCMA-101 was well-tolerated. The company also said that cytokine release syndrome was very low, with just five cases that were “mild and transient” across all doses.

Other CAR-T products in preclinical development include autologous and allogenic products aimed at castrate resistant prostate cancer, relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma and numerous solid tumors, including ovarian, breast, lung, colorectal, pancreatic and renal cancers. Poseida said it is planning on filing Investigational New Drug Applications with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for these candidates in 2019 and 2020.

Poseida plans to broadly advance its current CAR-T programs and emerging pipeline programs, including gene therapies for orphan genetic diseases.

The company’s CAR-T product candidates are manufactured with Poseida’s non-viral piggyBac DNA Modification System, resulting in a high percentage of stem cell memory T cells (TSCM). Tscm cells are the only T cell that is self-renewing and long-lived, potentially resulting in product candidates that are more efficacious, less toxic and more durable.

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