Tizona Therapeutics, Inc., a South San Fransico, CA-based immunology company leveraging the immune system to develop treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases, closed a $43m Series B funding.
The round was co-led by Abingworth and Canaan Partners with participation from Lightstone Ventures and existing investors MPM Capital, Amgen Ventures, Astellas Venture Management and InterWest Partners. In conjunction with the funding, Shelley Chu, M.D., Ph.D., Partner of Abingworth, Nina Kjellson, Partner of Canaan Partners, and Jean George, General Partner of Lightstone Ventures, joined Tizona’s Board of Directors.
The company, which has raised more than $70m, intends to use the funds to advance its immunotherapy programs, which include its lead drug candidate, an anti-CCR4 monoclonal antibody for the treatment of cancer, expected to enter the clinic in 2017.
Led by Pablo J. Cagnoni, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, Tizona harnesses the power of the immune system to develop treatments for cancer and autoimmune disorders. A healthy immune system integrates information from pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cells that regulate its function. In cancer, tumor cells evade recognition by controlling cells that suppress the proper function of the immune system. In autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks self tissues in the body due to insufficient regulation. Given this, the company’s therapies are designed to regulate these suppressive cells, thereby either activating the body’s ability to fight cancer or preventing the immune system from attacking healthy tissues in autoimmune diseases.
In addition to the anti-CCR4 antibody program, Tizona will use the funds to advance its pipeline, including IL-35, a recently discovered immunosuppressive cytokine, predominantly expressed by Tregs, involved in suppression of anti-tumor immunity through its modulation of effector T cells, as well as myeloid cells.
Blocking IL-35’s activity may reverse immune suppression in the tumor microenvironment and lead to an effective anti-tumor immune response.
The company was co-founded by:
– Charles G. Drake, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Oncology, Immunology and Urology, Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center;
– Vijay K. Kuchroo, D.V.M., Ph.D., Director, Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases, Harvard Medical School;
– Wayne A. Marasco, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Cancer Immunology and Virology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School;
– Drew Pardoll, M.D., Ph.D., Abeloff Professor of Oncology, Medicine, Pathology and Molecular Biology and Genetics, Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine;
– Dario Vignali, Ph.D., Vice Chair and Professor of Immunology, Department of Immunology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Co-Leader of the Cancer Immunology Program and Co-Director of the Tumor Microenvironment Center, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute; and
– Jedd Wolchok, M.D., Ph.D., Lloyd J. Old/Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig Chair in Clinical Investigation, Chief, Melanoma & Immunotherapeutics Service, Associate Director, Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy, Professor of Medicine, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
In addition, Ana Anderson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, Core faculty member of the Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases, is a scientific advisor to the company.