Seattle biotech firm Umoja Biopharma raises $53M as it tackles unique approach to immunotherapy – GeekWire
Umoja Biopharma raised $53 million to expand development of its CAR T-cell immunotherapy treatments for blood-based and organ-based tumors in adult and pediatric patients.
Founded last year, the pre-clinical Seattle-based company says it is taking a new three-step approach to immunotherapy by retooling a patient’s immune system in vivo, or within a living organism, to generate cancer-fighting cells inside the body.
“Umoja has already made significant progress on its goal of delivering technologies that will address the limitations of current engineered immunotherapies,” Andy Scharenberg, co-founder and CEO of Umoja, said in a statement. “Our in vivo-based approach is scalable while also providing control, safety, and highly effective anti-tumor activity; our goal is to improve both access and outcomes.”
Umoja’s technology is based on work done at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Purdue University. The name comes from a Swahili word for unity.
Scharenberg is a biotech veteran who previously co-founded Pregenen and Generation Bio. He also worked at Cellectis Therapeutics and Casebia Therapeutics, and is a professor of pediatrics and Immunology at the University of Washington. Scharenberg is also a principal investigator at Seattle Children’s.
Umoja’s other co-founders include:
MPM Capital and Qiming Venture Partners USA led the Series A round, which included participation from DCVC Bio.
“Umoja is comprised of a highly skilled and passionate team that brings together a unique complement of expertise with in vivo gene transfer, drug development and oncology,” Luke Evnin, Ph.D., co-founder and managing director of MPM Capital, said in a statement. “We believe that Umoja’s approach represents the future of cancer treatment.”
Umoja is one of several companies in the Seattle region developing immunotherapy-related technologies. Others include Sana Biotechnology, Chinook Therapeutics, Kineta, Alpine Immune Sciences, Adaptive Biotechnologies, and more, in addition to work being done at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Benaroya Research Institute, and others.