Pfizer Leads South San Francisco Biotech CytomX Therapeutics, Inc. to $20 Million Funding Round

Pfizer Leads SSF Biotech CytomX Therapeutics, Inc. to $20 Million Funding Round
January 6, 2015
By Riley McDermid, Breaking News Sr. Editor

South San Francisco biotech CytomX Therapeutics Inc. said Tuesday that it has received $20 million from Pfizer Inc.'s venture capital arm as the two companies attempt to team up on new ways to fight cancer via “probodies,” which attack tumor cells internally and help deliver drugs more quickly and efficiently.

A small company so far, 44-employee CytomX, the company is a spin out from University of California--Santa Barbara, and relocated to SSF in 2010 after a round of funding from Third Rock, Canaan Partners and the Roche Venture Fund.

The news came hot on the heels of Monday’s announcement that CytomX had made three key new hires, including former Five Prime Therapeutics chief scientific officer Dr. W. Michael Kavanaugh, who will now become the company’s CSO.

As part of that C-level shakeup, Sridhar Viswanathan will now become vice president of process sciences and manufacturing operations; he was formerly with Perseid Therapeutics, prior to its acquisition by Astellas . Danielle Olander was also named as vice president of human resources and will come to the post after a stint as senior director of human resources management at Portola Pharmaceuticals.

CytomX focuses on developing its novel “probodies,” which are designed to combine with Y-shaped protein antibodies to boost a patient’s own immune system when fighting cancer. The company said it will also be testing how probodies combine with T-cell engaging bispecific antibodies that lead to tumor cell death.

"CytomX continues to make significant progress with our Probody platform, and that effort has resulted in a compelling pipeline of wholly owned and partnered Probody therapeutics," said Sean McCarthy, chief executive officer of CytomX, in a statement. "

“The proceeds from this financing will help enable CytomX to advance our proprietary pipeline of Probody Drug Conjugates and Probodies against cancer immunotherapy checkpoint targets towards the clinic, while we also pursue Probody applications with bispecific antibodies and engineered T-cell therapies,” he said. “We have enjoyed a productive strategic partnership with Pfizer Inc. since June 2013 in the drug conjugate space, and we look forward to continuing to build on this relationship by welcoming Pfizer Venture Investments to our investor syndicate."

As part of the deal, Pfizer’s Elaine Jones, executive director of Venture Capital at Pfizer Venture Investments, will join CytomX's board of directors as of Jan. 15, 2015.

"Cytomx's platform provides an important advance for both antibodies and antibody-drug conjugates, enabling the potential development of novel therapeutics against a broader number of targets while minimizing the possibility for on-target toxicity," said Jones. "Since signing a collaboration with CytomX in 2013, Pfizer has been impressed with the Probody platform. We are pleased to lead this Series C investment and support the company's efforts in developing its wholly owned pipeline."

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