Peter Pack tells of ‘milestone’ as Crescendo Biologics raises £51m for novel cancer therapy
An interview with CEO of pioneering Babraham Research Campus company
A £51million funding round that will help Crescendo Biologics take its novel cancer therapeutics to the clinic is a “really important milestone” for the company, CEO Peter Pack told the Cambridge Independent yesterday.
It is the largest disclosed Series B financing in the European biotech sector this year and reflects confidence in the pioneering work of the Babraham Research Campus company.
Crescendo is developing potent, multi-functional Humabody therapeutics in oncology, which offer a number of potential advantages over traditional antibodies.
Based on a transgenic mouse model that develops fully human VH domain building blocks, Humabodies are small and can rapidly penetrate and accumulate in tissue and tumours. They also clear quickly from circulation to minimise toxicity.
Peter told the Cambridge Independent: “We are targeting T-cells, which is a big topic in the immuno-oncology space. We’ve developed a novel mechanism to give a specific activation of tumour-specific T-cells.
“We now have the money to bring that into the clinic and develop a proof of concept. Making it to a clinical-stage company will create the biggest possible value for us. We will also grow the pipeline.
“This novel mechanism is a platform. The lead programme, CB307, is for certain forms of prostate cancer but the mechanism can be applied to other tumour entities as well. We are infilling the pipeline by applying the same mechanism. For the lead programme, we’re getting it into the production of large amounts to do the toxicity studies and have sufficient material to do a phase I trial.”
Unlike traditional antibodies, Humabodies can bind to more than one target – up to six, in fact, and still retain a small size.
“We have both the platform and assets. Investors now focus on asset companies rather than platforms. We are a combination – we have a platform that enables us to differentiate biologics,” added Peter.
“We initially started as a discovery type of organisation. I joined as CEO three years ago and it was much more of a technology platform company.
“Now, over the past three years, we’ve made the transition to a development-type company, but have retained the discovery capabilities. The plan is to grow further.”
The $70million round was led by Andera Partners – formerly Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners – with Europe’s largest life science fund Biodiscovery V, and joined by Quan Capital with its leading life sciences fund, Quan Venture Fund I, along with Crescendo’s existing investors Sofinnova Partners, IP Group, EMBL and Takeda Ventures.
Gilles Nobécourt, partner at Andera Partners and lead investor, said: “We have been very impressed with the high quality of the novel biology behind multi-functional Humabodies and Crescendo’s growing development portfolio. Crescendo is a true pioneer in the development of targeted T-cell engagement and we are looking forward to working with the team.”
Peter said the company’s global strategic, multi-target collaboration and licence agreement with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company was key to securing investment.
“It validates our technology,” he said. “Without it, I don’t think we could attract the interest of investors. If a pharma company is willing to pay a big cheque, they need to believe in it.”
Graziano Seghezzi, managing partner at Sofinnova Partners, added: “We have been supporting Crescendo since its seed round in 2009, and then through the Series A together with IP Group, the substantial size of the round and the participation of new investors of the Series B underlines the potential and success of VH-based Humabodies.”
Marietta Wu, managing director of Quan Capital, which invested a significant amount in the round, explained: “We have been especially drawn to the Humabody platform that offers multiple potential advantages over the current antibody (IgG) approaches and could enable the company to quickly build a substantial portfolio of impactful therapeutics. We look forward to joining our partners to rapidly advance Crescendo’s portfolio into clinical development where we can improve patient lives.”
Peter added: “We appreciate the strong support – past and present – from our current investors, who have enabled us to grow the company to this point. In this round, we are also welcoming two new investors, Andera Partners and Quan Capital. We look forward to taking our lead programme, CB307 into the clinic and further exploit our technology platform with new products.”