Century Therapeutics Launches with $250 Million for Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Platform
Century Therapeutics, a startup founded by Versant Ventures, launched this morning with $250 million in hand and a focus on developing induced pluripotent stem cell- (iPSC) based therapies for the treatment of hematologic and solid malignancies.
Century’s iPSCs, which are stem cells that can be generated from adult stem cells, have unlimited self-renewing capacity, the company said, which enables multiple rounds of cellular engineering. These engineering rounds will produce master cell banks of modified cells that can be expanded and differentiated into immune effector cells to supply vast amounts of allogeneic and homogeneous therapeutic products. This platform differentiates Century from competitors that are developing cell therapies made from non-renewable donor-derived cells, the company asserted in its announcement.
On its website, which at the moment only includes a landing page, the company said its genetically-engineered, universal iPSCs-derived immune effector cell products are designed to specifically target hematologic and solid tumor cancers. As part of its landing page message, Century said its “commitment to developing off-the-shelf cell therapies will expand patient access and provides an unparalleled opportunity to advance the course of cancer care.”
Based in Philadelphia, Century was founded by Versant last year and quickly formed a strategic partnership with Fujifilm Cellular Dynamics Inc. (FCDI), a subsidiary of Fujifilm Corporation, to develop iPSC-derived immune effector cells for cancer. The Fujifilm subsidiary has a vertically integrated iPSC platform has been optimized to include the foremost reprograming technology that uses genome integration-free methods to generate GMP grade iPSC lines, Century said in its announcement. Under the terms of that partnership, Century has exclusive access to FCDI’s immune effector cell differentiation protocols and intellectual property to manufacture GMP-grade immune effector cells at commercial scale. FCDI will serve as the primary manufacturer of Century’s cellular products.
Century’s launch was backed, in part, by Leaps by Bayer, the venture investment arm of the German life sciences company, as well as Versant and FCDI. Leaps by Bayer uses its resources to advance treatments for cancer. Juergen Eckhardt, head of Leaps by Bayer, said the venture capital group is excited about the potential of Century’s platform. “It represents a unique opportunity in the development of next-generation cell therapies that promise to address previously incurable cancers,” he said.
Century is helmed by Chief Executive Officer Osvaldo (Lalo) Flores, who also previously founded Novira Therapeutics Inc. Flores said the financial support and expertise from its backers will enable the company to realize the full potential of its iPSC platform.
“I am grateful to have their experience to guide the development of our promising allogeneic cell therapies for cancers with high unmet need,” Flores said in a brief statement.
In addition to Flores, Century’s leadership team also includes Hyam Levitsky, president of research and development; Luis Borges, chief scientific officer; and Adrienne Farid, chief development officer. Scientific co-founders are Marcela Maus, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Cellular Immunotherapy Cancer Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Hiro Nakauchi, professor of genetics at Stanford University School of Medicine.