Sana Aims to Hire 100 New Employees On Heels of $587 Million IPO

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After Sana Biotechnology raised a whopping $587 million in its initial public offering, the company aims to hire an additional 100 people to staff its sites in Seattle, San Francisco, and Cambridge, Mass. by the end of the year.

In an interview with the Puget Sound Business Journal, Sana Chief Executive Officer Steve Harr said the company is poised for significant growth as the cell and gene therapy space becomes more important in addressing diseases that have unmet needs. 

Sana concentrates on in vivo and ex vivo cell engineering platforms to advance therapies for cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, CNS disorders, and genetic diseases. The Seattle-based company has yet to drive any of its gene therapies into the clinic, but it is moving closer to becoming a clinical company.

This year, Sana presented proof of concept animal studies from the in vivo fusogen T cell and ex vivo hypoimmune allogeneic T cell programs at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2021. These programs highlighted the company’s tech platform to make potentially differentiated CAR T cells. 

At the conference, the company presented data that showed “a single intravenous dose of targeted fusosomes enables specific delivery of a CD19 CAR transgene to CD8+ T cells, creating CAR T cells in vivo, that show a dose-dependent anti-tumor response regardless of prior T cell activation status.” 

Sana notes that hypoimmunogenic CAR-T cells exhibit the ability to evade the innate and adaptive immune system in allogeneic recipients. They also demonstrate tumor killing capabilities, potentially leading to universal CAR T cells that can persist without immunosuppression.

Addressing the need to expand Sana’s headcount rapidly, Harr told the Business Journal that the company’s goal of making cell and gene therapy a common reality for patients requires a smart staff with the right skills and training. 

“And it turns out that making these medicines is extraordinarily complex, and they require expertise across a number of different domain areas within basic research, gene research and also the manufacturing sciences. It’s quite complicated,” Harr said.

While Harr has a bold vision of hiring 100 additional people for Sana, there are some hurdles that have to be overcome, not including concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Primarily, Sana's CEO noted that recruiting people to work in the growing Seattle hotbed faces some challenges due to its smaller size compared to the Bay Area or Boston. 

“Attracting people to move here has been a challenge because there aren’t as many companies. If this one doesn’t work out — people move their whole family. They want to know that if this company doesn’t work out for them or the company gets acquired, they have another place to land. That critical mass is beginning to start, but it’s not quite there yet,” Harr said. 

“One of the real benefits of Seattle is that the people in the life sciences are generally pretty happy here. It’s one of the reasons why the region has an outsized impact relative to the amount of capital it’s raised. While there are challenges in getting people here, the people who are here are really quite good.”

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