GentiBio Nets $157 Million to Restore Immune Tolerance with Tregs
GentiBio Team L-R: Adel Nada, Co-founder, president, CEO; Andy Walker, Co-founder, CTO; Catherine Thut, CBO; Chandra Patel, Co-founder, VP R&D; Tom Wickham, CSO; David Rawlings, Co-founder, Senior Scientific Advisor/Courtesy: GentiBio, Inc.
GentiBio, Inc is developing engineered regulatory T cells (Tregs) to build a better immune system and functionally cure autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases – and it now has $157 million more dollars of ammunition to do it.
Early Wednesday morning, Genti announced the Series A funding, which was led by Matrix Capital Management with participation from Avidity Partners and JDRF T1D Fund, along with returning seed investors, OrbiMed, RA Capital Management, Novartis Venture Fund, and Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
The human immune system is a critical giver and sustainer of life, but as with all systems, sometimes it needs a little help. So Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Genti is combining Tregs biology and antigen receptor engineering to create potently engineered Tregs, or EngTregs, that it hopes will prevent and cure autoimmune, alloimmune, autoinflammatory, and allergic diseases.
“We would not be here today without the powerful guard that is the immune system. That guard is charged with protecting us from all threats within our bodies or any threats that come from the outside. It is not an overstatement to say that it is responsible for civilization as it exists today,” said Genti Co-founder, President and CEO Adel Nada, MD, MS.
The primary function of Regulatory T cells is to prevent the immune system from going into overdrive and triggering autoimmune disease. When these Tregs malfunction, the brakes are taken off, allowing runaway immune responses that lead to a whole host of autoimmune diseases including Type 1 diabetes, Celiac disease, and Multiple Sclerosis.
Existing therapies for these diseases and others indiscriminately suppress the entire immune system and leave it vulnerable to attack from cancers and viruses like COVID-19. Genti wants to functionally cure autoimmune diseases by producing phenotypically superior Tregs, propelling and maintaining them using synthetic biology engineering, and adding on a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that enables them to precisely reach tissues damaged by abnormal immune responses.
Inflammation is an important protective mechanism if it can be controlled. This is a key component of Genti’s engineering and the secret to the potency of its Tregs.
“The cells are engineered in a way to divorce them from the inflammatory environment they're going to. So our stability is not predicated on that environment. That is the secret to our potency,” Nada said.
GentiBio is currently in the process of selecting its clinical candidate for Type 1 diabetes and will begin IND-enabling studies before the end of 2021. The company will use the new monetary infusion to advance this candidate into the clinic and bring forward additional assets to address follow on indications such as primary biliary cholangitis and viral pneumonia ARDS.
Genti, whose name in Latin means “a congregation of peoples” will also ramp up its team of 17 to around 90 individuals between Boston, where R&D and corporate functions will remain, and a new GMP manufacturing facility in Seattle.
“At Matrix Capital, we are thrilled to support GentiBio’s mission to develop and scale the next generation of curative cell therapies for patients suffering from autoimmune diseases. We are excited by the company’s preclinical results demonstrating the broad therapeutic potential of its platform to engineer best-in-class Tregs,” said Andy Tran, who will join the Genti board to represent Matrix. “GentiBio’s novel engineering platform has tremendous promise to bring forward durable Treg treatments for a broad array of devastating autoimmune diseases and has the unique ability to scale them cost-effectively for patients.”