Amsterdam UMC spin-off LAVA Therapeutics*, a biotech company pioneering the development of bispecific antibodies to engage gamma-delta T cells for cancer therapies, has raised €71 million to fund the advancement of its pipeline and platform. With the money, LAVA expects to be able to start a number of clinical studies for the treatment of tumors and other haematological disorders from next year.
The financing was co-led by new investors Novo Ventures, the venture arm of Novo Holdings, and Sanofi Ventures, and included additional new investors Redmile Group, LLC, Ysios Capital and BB Pureos Bioventures. In addition, current investors Versant, Gilde Healthcare and MRL Ventures Fund, LLC participated significantly in the round.
LAVA Therapeutics notes as part of the transaction, Nanna Lüneborg, partner at Novo Ventures, Laia Crespo, EU head of investments at Sanofi Ventures, and Joël Jean-Mairet, managing partner and co-founder of Ysios, joined LAVA as members of the board of directors.
“We are grateful to have attracted a high-quality syndicate of new investors complementing strong continued support of our existing investors. This financing provides meaningful capital to advance our bispecific gamma-delta T cell engager portfolio into multiple proof-of-concept clinical trials expected to start in 2021 for the treatment of solid tumors and hematologic malignancies,” said Stephen Hurly, chief executive officer of LAVA Therapeutics. “We believe our targeted approach, leveraging the unique features of gamma9-delta2 T cells with innovative bispecific antibodies, will deliver novel T cell-based therapies offering advantages over today’s oncology treatments. In addition to the funding raised, the appointments of Nanna, Laia and Joël to our board further strengthen our team, and we look forward to benefiting from their insights and industry expertise.”
Gamma-delta T cells are the natural surveillance cells of the immune system, continuously patrolling the human body for the identification and targeting of tumor cells. These cells bridge the innate with the adaptive immune system and are a largely untapped opportunity in cancer treatment. LAVA’s bispecific gamma-delta T cell engager platform is harnessing the unique properties of these T cells creating a revolutionary truly tumor-targeted immunotherapy to improve outcomes for cancer patients.
“LAVA’s bispecific antibody approach to targeting and engaging gamma-delta T cells has the potential to transform the treatment of a wide range of cancers,” said Dr. Lüneborg. “We are impressed by the preclinical data generated by LAVA to date, which validate the company’s platform and support their transition into a clinical-stage organization. The team is highly experienced in drug development, and I look forward to working with them.”
“Gamma-delta T cells are an emerging field and an incredibly exciting area in oncology. Bispecific antibodies able to directly engage this type of cells offer the potential to significantly impact patients across the globe in these diseases with high morbidity and mortality,” said Dr. Crespo.
*LAVA Therapeutics is developing a proprietary bispecific antibody platform that engages gamma-delta T cells for the treatment of hematological and solid cancers. The company’s first-in-class immuno-oncology approach activates Vγ9Vδ2 T cells upon binding to membrane-expressed tumor targets. LAVA was founded in 2016 based on intellectual property originating from the Amsterdam University Medical Center. The company has established a highly experienced antibody research and development team located in Utrecht, the Netherlands (headquarters) and Philadelphia, USA.
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