Ottawa biotechnology company Turnstone Biologics Inc. has closed a $41.4 million series B financing round, led by new investor OrbiMed, with participation from new investor F-Prime Capital Partners and existing investors FACIT and Versant Ventures, which led Turnstone’s series A financing.
The money will help Turnstone accelerate and expand the pipeline of oncolytic viral immunotherapies and support completion of their ongoing Phase I/II trial, as well as fund three additional clinical programs that will start this year and next.
“We are taking a rapid and expansive approach to clinical development with the goals of exploiting the full potential of our platform and positioning it to most benefit patients,” said Turnstone CEO Sammy Farah, Ph.D. “There is reason to be excited about the heavily differentiated nature of our technology and the promising clinical results that have been generated to date.”
OrbiMed Partner Rishi Gupta and F-Prime’s Ben Auspitz will join Turnstone’s board of directors, alongside existing board Chairman Brad Bolzon, Ph.D., from Versant, and board members managing director of Versant Ventures Jerel Davis, Ph.D., Jeff Courtney from FACIT, John Bell, Ph.D., from the Ottawa Hospital and University of Ottawa, and Dr. Farah.
Research by Dr. Bell and Dr. David Stojdl of CHEO and the University of Ottawa, along with McMaster University’s Dr. Brian Lichty, provided the basis for Turnstone Biologics’ experimental cancer immunotherapy, which uses a combination of two viruses to attack and kill cancer cells to stimulate an immune response against the cancer.
This two-pronged mechanism of action functions both as a tumor-destroying oncolytic agent and as an immune-stimulating vaccine directed at specific cancer antigens, resulting in the induction of a potent immune response and strong anti-tumor activity, with the added benefit of being a cancer vaccine that harnesses the patient’s own immune system to fight the disease in a sustainable manner.
“We are thrilled to work with the scientific founders led by Dr. John Bell, and the team at Turnstone, to develop this innovative technology,” said OrbiMed Partner Rishi Gupta, J.D. “Because of its unique ability to elicit a potent T cell response and modify the tumor microenvironment, it holds great potential as both a standalone therapy and in combination with checkpoint inhibition, where we look forward to preliminary clinical data next year.”
Last year, Turnstone raised an $11.3 million Series A financing round, led by Versant Ventures, with follow-on capital committed in excess of $20 million.
“We are encouraged by the rapid advancement of Turnstone’s unique Maraba platform and multiple follow on programs during the past year,” said Jerel Davis, Ph.D., managing director at Versant Ventures. “We welcome the addition of OrbiMed and F-Prime who will help build on this foundation and accelerate development of the pipeline.”
Completion of the Phase I/II monotherapy trial for Turnstone’s oncolytic Maraba virus, which is engineered to express melanoma-associated antigen A3 (MAGEA3), is expected in 2017.
Later in 2016, Turnstone will start a new Phase I/II trial with the oncolytic Maraba virus in combination with an approved checkpoint inhibitor in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Turnstone is also developing additional oncolytic virus strategies and immunotherapy combination treatments.
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