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Company to Stop Cancer Spread, Relapse Raises $60.8M

Cancer magnified

(PDPics, Pixabay)

7 February 2019. A new company formed to commercialize research that aims to prevent cancer from spreading or recurring is raising $60.75 million in its first venture financing. HiberCell, in New York, is a biotechnology spin-off enterprise from the Mount Sinai medical school, also in New York.

HiberCell is licensing research from the lab of Julio Aguirre-Ghiso, a professor at Mount Sinai in hematology, oncology, and head and neck cancer, also the company’s scientific founder. Aguirre-Ghiso’s lab studies the biology behind the metastasis or spread of cancer, as well as its recurrence after tumors are removed. Much of the group’s research is on dormant disseminated tumor cells that remain in the body, often undetected.

Despite advances in treating primary tumors, cancer recurrence and metastasis remains the main reason for for most cancer deaths. Aguirre-Ghiso notes in a company statement that “the unfortunate and painful truth is that relapsed or metastatic cancer still claims the lives of most people with cancer, even when their primary tumor has been successfully treated.”

HiberCell plans to develop diagnostics and therapeutics aimed at earlier detection and treatment of dormant disseminated tumor cells, which the company says is the first of its kind to take this approach. HiberCell, says co-founder and president Alan Rigby, will first better understand the genetics and transcription of dormant disseminated tumor cells, to develop treatments for tumor dormancy. Rigby adds, “We believe that this approach provides a differentiated opportunity to change the paradigm of cancer treatment.”

In HiberCell’s first venture funding round, the company is raising $60.75 million, led by life science venture investor ARCH Venture Partners in Chicago, joined by Celgene Corporation, the NYC Life Sciences Fund, and a number of undisclosed company and personal investors. NYC Life Sciences Fund backs early-stage enterprises spun-off from universities, research institutes, and medical centers in the city. The fund plans to invest $120 million in start-ups’ first funding rounds, with backing from Celgene and Eli Lilly & Company through 2020, focusing on therapeutics, medical devices, diagnostics, instrumentation, and digital life sciences technologies.

“HiberCell will build on the foundational biology that is in place,” says Aguirre-Ghiso, “by focusing on novel tools to better detect, isolate and annotate the survival mechanisms in these dormant disseminated tumor cells. By targeting these mechanisms with therapeutics, we believe it is possible to extend disease-free intervals and improve the chance of survival through lower rates of relapse and metastasis.”

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