Immunotherapy startup Umoja lands $210M, less than a year after raising $53M

Umoja Biopharma CEO Andy Scharenberg. (Umoja Photo)

New funding: Just seven months after announcing a $53 million Series A round, Umoja Biopharma has raised an additional $210 million in a Series B round. The company is developing immunotherapy treatments for blood-based and organ-based tumors in adult and pediatric patients.

Umoja launched in 2019 and is working to commercialize technology developed at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Purdue University. The company’s headquarters are in Seattle, and it has a manufacturing operations site in Boulder, Colo. The name comes from a Swahili word for unity.

The science: Umoja is developing a multi-pronged technology that harnesses a patient’s’ immune response to attack cancer cells. The company argues that its approach, which generates cancer fighting T cells in vivo, or within a person’s body, has benefits compared to treatments developed in vitro. The strategy also uses a system of tagging cancer cells.

The new funding will help develop treatments for clinical trials. That includes two programs, one using the tumor tagging technology for what are called folate receptor-expressing solid tumors, and another treatment for hematological cancers.

Co-founders: The Umoja team includes a roster of experienced biotech researchers and executives.

  • CEO Dr. Andy Scharenberg previously co-founded Pregenen and Generation Bio, and is a professor of pediatrics and immunology at the University of Washington. Scharenberg is also a principal investigator at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
  • Dr. Michael Jensen, Umoja’s scientific advisory board co-chair, is vice president of Seattle Children’s Therapeutics, a new effort by Seattle Children’s Hospital to expand its existing research efforts.
  • Philip Low, Umoja’s scientific advisory board co-chair, is a professor at Purdue who previously co-founded MorphImmune, Eradivir, Endocyte and other companies.
  • Chief Technology Officer Ryan Crisman is a veteran of ZymoGenetics, Juno Therapeutics and Gates Biomanufacturing Facility.

Funding: The round was co-led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Cormorant Asset Management. New investors included RTW Investments, LP, Temasek, Presight Capital, Caas Capital and SVB Leerink. Funds also came from existing investors: MPM Capital, DCVC Bio, Qiming Venture Partners USA, Casdin Capital, The Emerson Collective and Alexandria Venture Investments.

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