HiberCell Launches With $60.75 Million Series A to Target Dormant Metastatic Cancer Cells

animation of Cancer cell

HiberCell, based in New York City, launched with a $60.75 million Series A funding. The funding was led by ARCH Venture Partners. Additional investors included Hillhouse Capital, 6 Dimensions Capital, Celgene Corporation, the NYC Life Sciences Fund and other undisclosed investors.

HiberCell focuses on tumor dormancy detection and treatments. Recurrence of cancer, which is the cause of many cancer deaths, is driven by dormant disseminated tumor cells (DTCs) that remain undetected in the body for long periods of time. HiberCell is working to develop first-in-class drugs that target DTCs that originate from solid and liquid tumors.

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“HiberCell is the foundational tumor dormancy company,” stated Alan Rigby, co-founder, president and chief scientific officer of the company. “We know that dormant disseminated tumor cells are critical drivers of cancer metastasis. In translating this biology into the clinic, our work will be focused on further defining the characteristic genetics and transcriptomics of dormant disseminated tumor cells and charting a course to leverage our dormancy targets to improve patient outcomes and survival. We believe that this approach provides a differentiated opportunity to change the paradigm of cancer treatment.”

One of the investors is the NYC Life Sciences Fund, which was founded by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, an initiative to stimulate New York City’s early-stage life sciences ecosystem.

Aguirre-Chiso, the company’s scientific founder and professor of Medicine (Hematology and Medical Oncology), director of Head and Neck Cancer Basic Research and Solid Tumor and Metastasis Research and co-leader of the Cancer Mechanisms Program at The Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in a separate event, received the 2016 BioAccelerate Prize for work that has been licensed by HiberCell. The BioAccelerate Price was awarded by the Partnership Fund for New York City.

Xconomy notes that the New York City Economic Development Corp.’s biotech fund, which had $150 million to invest and was formed in 2013, hadn’t made any investments until HiberCell.

“This definitely took time, I think we’ll acknowledge that,” Doug Thiede, senior vice president of Life Sciences & Healthcare at the NYCEDC, told Xconomy. “But what we’ve also learned over time from our partners and others in the ecosystem is we want to focus on companies that will stand the test of time. We’re excited about this particular investment being one of those.”

Two life science venture firms, Arch Venture Partners and Flagship Pioneering, manage the NYCEDC’s biotech fund. Flagship isn’t involved with HiberCell.

HiberCell is the first biotech startup to settle into the Hudson Research Center, one of New York City’s newest sites for startups. The laboratories are expected to open in April and according to Rigby, will have enough space for up to 50 employees.

The NYCEDC invested $1.2 million toward HiberCell.

NYCEDC partnered with Celgene, Eli Lilly and GE Ventures in 2013 to accumulate more than $100 million with a goal of forming 15 to 20 local life science startups by 2020. In the U.S., life science startups tend to gather in Boston and San Francisco, although many state governments and economic organizations have created initiatives to bolster that activity in their own states. Texas, for example, wants to be a “third coast” for biotech clusters, although they’re hardly alone in that ambition.

The state of New York and New York City have about $1 billion in life sciences funding, but New York is well behind other states in raising venture capital for startups. The fact that it took almost six years for NYCEDC to invest in a startup life science company would seem to be a factor in that delay.

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