SQZ Biotech said today that it closed a $16 million Series B round to fund its preclinical cell therapy programs for oncology and other undisclosed diseases.
SQZ said it developed a microchip that can open immune cell membranes temporarily and let proteins in that can trigger an immune response against cancer. The cell membrane is gently squeezed open and fragments of proteins from a tumor are taken up by B-cells.
The modified B-cells can train another class of immune cells known as T-cells, to hunt down and destroy the cancerous tissue, according to SQZ.
Other companies, like Novartis and Juno Therapeutics (NSDQ:JUNO), are attempting to use the body’s own immune system to destroy cancer cells by directly modifying T-cells. But it remains unclear how effective these treatments are in the long run and what kinds of cancers they can destroy.
SQZ entered into a $500 million partnership with Roche to address what they see as limitations in the cell therapy industry.
“SQZ has developed a simple, yet immensely powerful method to engineer cells,” NanoDimension’s Eric Moessinger, who joined the SQZ Board of Directors, said in prepared remarks. “I am thrilled to be a part of the SQZ team and look forward to contributing to the evolution of this innovative company.”
“The SQZ team has made remarkable progress,” Polaris Partners venture partner and SQZ executive chair Amy Schulman added. “Soon the real promise of their cell re-engineering technology will be applied across a variety of applications to treat a broad range of ailments. I am confident this technology will represent a meaningful difference in people’s lives.”
SQZ also announced that it hired Kris Elverum as its Chief Business Officer. Elverum led US commercial model development for Novartis’ cell-therapy division, which was recently disbanded.
“Kris’ passion, leadership, and unique experience in cell therapy commercialization, strategy and M&A will be invaluable to SQZ at this time of growth for our company. We are very excited to have him on the team,” CEO Armon Sharei said.