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Cell Therapy Mfring Company Raises $82M in Venture Funds

T-cells and cancer cells

Killer T-cells surround a cancer cell (NICHD, Flickr)

5 May 2021. A company developing an automated yet personalized manufacturing platform for cell therapies is raising $82 million in its second venture funding round. Cellares Corp. in South San Francisco, California is a two year-old company creating a solution to boost the productivity of delivering engineered immune system cells to treat disease.

Cellares Corp. aims to provide labs and health care providers with an end-to-end system that prepares and delivers immune system cells genetically altered to express therapeutic properties. An example is chimeric antigen receptors on T-cells or CAR T-cells, that generate immune responses to treat blood-related and solid tumor cancers. Most current cell therapy production processes, says the company, are one-time procedures created ad hoc for each individual patient. As a result, these processes are often manual, labor-intensive, prone to errors, and can take weeks, making cell therapies difficult to complete for very sick patients.

“There are more than 450,000 patients today who could potentially benefit from CAR T-cell therapies, a number expected to grow into the millions in a few years’ time,” says Cellares’s co-founder and CEO Fabian Gerlinghaus in a company statement. “Less than 1% of these patients are able to get access to these therapies, due to a lack of scalable cell manufacturing technologies.”

Self-contained lab with robotics and software

Cellares calls its solution a factory-in-a-box, since the manufacturing process is contained in a single cartridge. The unit, says the company, takes in starting materials, such as a patient’s own T-cells, and carries out all of the steps in the cell manufacturing process: enrichment, isolation, activation, gene transfer, expansion, and formulation. The output is then given to the patient as an infusion therapy.

Each of these gene therapy units, says Cellares, meets good manufacturing practices for pharmaceuticals required by Food and Drug Administration. The units are arrayed in a self-contained lab with shared robotics and software that can support up to 10 simultaneous production processes. Cellares cites data showing its units result in a three-fold reduction in process failure risk, and up to 70 percent lower manufacturing costs from less manual labor and eliminating the need for separate clean-rooms. The result, says the company is a shorter time needed from collecting patients’ cells to delivering cell therapies, known as vein-to-vein time.

Cellares Corp. is raising $82 million in its second venture funding round, led by Silicon Valley technology and life science venture capital companies Eclipse Ventures and Decheng Capital. Skyviews Life Science joined the round as a new investor with current investor 8VC. Eclipse Ventures also led Cellares Corp.’s first funding round, raising $18 million in October 2020, according to Crunchbase.

“With hundreds of new cell therapies already in development around the world,” adds Victor Tong, Partner at Decheng Capital, “the as-yet untapped potential for a robust, automated manufacturing process is massive.”

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