Presage Biosciences raises $13M and inks new deal with Merck for cancer drug tests

Presage CEO Richard Klinghoffer. (Presage Photo)

New funds, new partners: Seattle’s Presage Biosciences announced $13 million in funding as well new collaborations with biotech giant Merck and California-based Maverick Therapeutics. Presage is a biotech device company that has built a platform for testing new cancer drugs used to treat tumors.

Presage has existing partnerships with healthcare heavy hitters Takeda Pharmaceutical, Celgene and Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS). The company has raised a total of $35 million in equity, and this its first venture round.

Quicker, cheaper drug screening: Before a cancer drug is given to patients in phase I trials, it’s first tested in the lab. But many of the drugs that appear to hold promise in that setting don’t perform well when marshaled against actual tumors in people.

“[M]ore than 95% of the drugs/compounds that kill either cancer cells in culture or regress the tumors in animals, fail in phase I clinical trials in humans, indicating that most pre-clinical models of cancer are inadequate,” reads a 2019 scientific paper by authors not related to Presage.

Presage’s CIVO platform (stands for Comparative In Vivo Oncology) allows drug developers to quickly test candidate drugs in human tumors before embarking on lengthy, expensive phase I clinical trials that drive up the costs of cancer treatments. The CIVO device allows for micro-dosing of the drugs and tracking their impact using biomarkers.

Presage is using its technology in phase 0 trials with the five partnering biotech companies.

Fred Hutch roots: Presage launched in 2009 as a Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center spinoff built on technology developed by Fred Hutch oncologist Dr. Jim Olson.

Presage CEO Richard Klinghoffer was a post-doctoral research fellow at the Fred Hutch and held industry jobs before becoming the second employee at Presage. He became CEO in 2018.

The company’s leadership and board has deep roots across the biotech industry, including board members Dr. Tachi Yamada, former president of the Global Health Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Michele Cleary, who held senior roles at Merck and BMS.

Presage has 18 full-time employees and seven consultants with plans to add more than 10 employees this year.

Financial details: The funding includes $7 million from new investors: LabCorp Venture Fund, Bristol Myers Squibb and InHarv Partners. An additional $6 million convertible note from Takeda Ventures will convert to equity.

Presage previously raised early rounds from angels and friends and family investors, followed by two strategic rounds with Celgene and Takeda.

Leave a Comment