Sonoma Biotherapeutics, a South San Francisco, CA and Seattle, WA-based company developing regulatory T cell (Treg) therapies for autoimmune and degenerative diseases, raised $40m in Series A financing.
Backers included Lyell Immunopharma, ARCH Venture Partners, Milky Way Ventures and 8VC.
Led by founder and CEO Jeffrey Bluestone, PhD., Sonoma brings together research, development and manufacturing capabilities in cell therapy and genetic engineering with a team of executives, scientists, board members and investors with extensive experience in the fields of cell therapy and drug discovery.
The goal of Treg therapy is to restore a state of self-tolerance by halting harmful inflammatory responses in autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis, along with degenerative diseases including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Alzheimer’s. Tregs have a clear role in many of these conditions. These cells’ natural ability to migrate to inflamed tissues and control harmful immune responses make them ideal for treating a range of conditions. In addition, the ability to engineer Treg cells to target specific disease-causing antigens reduces the potential for unwanted systemic effects.
Sonoma Biotherapeutics is co-founded by four of the foundational scientists in the Treg field:
- Jeff Bluestone, PhD, UCSF faculty member and former CEO and President of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, is a leading immunologist who is credited with the discovery of the function of CTLA-4, a receptor that is a critical target of the new generation of cancer immunotherapies.
- Qizhi Tang, PhD, is a translational immunologist and Director of the UCSF Transplantation Research Lab.
- Fred Ramsdell, PhD, an immunologist with nearly three decades of biopharma experience, including early clinical development of immunotherapies, will serve as Sonoma’s Chief Scientific Officer.
- Alexander Rudensky, PhD, is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and the Chair of Immunology Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, whose research has contributed to the fundamental understanding of the differentiation of Tregs and their role in immune response.
Dr. Rick Klausner, CEO of Lyell Immunopharma and newly appointed Chair of the Sonoma Biotherapeutics Board of Directors.
In this regard, Sonoma Biotherapeutics has entered into a strategic partnership with Lyell that provides both parties with access to technologies and know-how to enhance the durability, stability and specificity of cell therapies in their respective indications of focus. This partnership will further enable Sonoma’s rapid translation of Treg therapies from target identification and discovery, through preclinical and clinical development.