Bay Area's Pionyr Immunotherapeutics Scores $62M to Push Anti-Tumor Tech Towards Clinic
Pionyr Immunotherapeutics closed on a Series B financing round worth $62 million. The round was led by New Enterprise Associates and joined by Sofinnova Ventures and Vida Ventures, as well as existing investors OrbiMed, SV Health Investors, Osage University Partners, and Mission Bay Ventures.
Formerly named Precision Immune, Pionyr was founded in 2015 by Max Krummel, a professor at University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine and Sachdev Sidhu, formerly of Genentech, and currently head of protein engineering and antibody discovery at the University of Toronto. Krummel is the co-inventor of the first checkpoint inhibitor, Yervoy. Sidhu was actively involved in early antibody page-display technology platforms.
The company is working to develop cancer immunotherapies that target the tumor microenvironment. Its platform is called Myeloid Tuning, which improves the immune system’s response against tumors by selectively changing the cellular infiltrate of the tumor microenvironment. It is built on the knowledge that it is possible to change the tumor microenvironment so that it favors immune-activating cells over immune-suppressing cells, resulting in improved defense against cancer.
“Our technology has led to a promising pipeline of potential new therapeutics against novel and highly specific targets in the tumor microenvironment,” Krummel said in a statement. “We believe these drug candidates hold the keys to an untapped area of immuno-oncology and may have a significant impact on multiple cancers.”
Steven James, former chief executive officer of Labrys Biologics, which was acquired by Teva and KAI Pharmaceuticals, which was bought by Amgen, is Pionyr’s president and chief executive officer. Michel Streuli is Pionyr’s senior vice president of research. Streuli previously led immuno-oncology work at Gilead, Merck, Schering-Plough, and Organon.
“Pionyr has made great progress over the past year and we are extremely gratified that this has led to a financing sufficient in size to take two of our antibodies into human cancer trials,” James said in a statement. “NEA, Sofinnova Ventures, and Vida Ventures are superb additions to our existing syndicate of top flight investors, and have been tremendously supportive of our efforts to push forward with multiple programs emerging from our pipeline.”
In January 2017, Pionyr closed on a Series A-1 round worth $8 million. It was led by OrbiMed and SV Life Sciences, and included Osage University Partners, Mission Bay Ventures, and the company’s private angel investors. That round brought the original investment to around $10 million. Total investment to date is around $72 million.
The company’s technology is licensed from UC San Francisco and University of Toronto. It also has a collaboration deal with Toronto-based Adimab, an antibody discovery company. The deal includes an option to license Adimab-generated antibodies to Pionyr’s proprietary targets.
Adimab was founded in 2007 and touts a laundry list of top partners, although “customers” might be a more appropriate word. The company develops antibodies for specific targets provided by their partners. Partners include Merck, Novo Nordisk, Biogen, GlaxoSmithKline, Acceleron, Alector, Arsanis, Celgene, Eli Lilly, Five Prime, Fortress Biotech, Genentech, Gilead, Jounce, Novartis, Pfizer and many others.