Cancer upstart Gritstone gains major $93M series B

The startup now boasts around $200 million in funding and an experienced biopharma executive team.

After getting off a $102 million series A, Gritstone Oncology has followed up with an impressive $92.7 million second round.

Its series B was led by new investor Lilly Asia Ventures, with help from Google’s venture arm GV, Trinitas Capital (Beijing) and Alexandria Venture Investments. Existing investors also all got in on the round, including Versant Ventures, The Column Group, Clarus Funds and Frazier Healthcare Partners.

All of these VCs are buying into the California biotech’s plan that centers on finding out which tumor-specific neoantigens (TSNAs) a patient has and then uses an algorithm to better figure out which candidate is most likely to activate tumor-specific T cells and deliver personalized synthetic TSNAs.

The company is slated to enter the clinic in the middle of next year with a focus on non-small cell lung cancer and gastric cancer, and will use much of its new cash toward building a “personalized immunotherapy manufacturing facility.”

This 43,000-square-foot industrialized manufacturing facility in Pleasanton, California, will, according to the company, “form the nucleus of Gritstone’s manufacturing program for personalized cancer therapeutics.”

“We are excited to expand our investor base with leading investors from the U.S. and Asia, and to continue driving Gritstone’s best-in-class approach to develop personalized immunotherapies,” said Andrew Allen, M.D., Ph.D., co-founder, president and CEO of Gritstone and co-founder of Clovis. “Since the formation of the company two years ago, Gritstone has made significant progress leveraging extensive human tumor molecular analysis and machine learning to develop and optimize the proprietary Gritstone EDGE tumor antigen identification platform. We have matched our breakthrough accuracy in tumor neoantigen identification with an antigen delivery system that builds on human immunity insights from infectious disease experts, culminating in an extremely potent neoantigen delivery platform expected to drive best-in-class cytotoxic T cell responses.”

The company has raised nearly $200 million over the last two years and has an experienced executive team, with Allen working alongside its CTO Roman Yelensky, Ph.D., former VP of Foundation Medicine, and a machine-learning team, as well as ex-Pfizer cancer immunotherapy chief Karin Jooss, Ph.D., as its CSO and Genentech vet Raphaël Rousseau, M.D., Ph.D., who became its CMO in May.

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“Gritstone is creating a new class of cancer immunotherapies that is revolutionary in its scope and ambition,” added Anthony Philippakis, M.D., Ph.D., venture partner at GV. “The company has made meaningful progress applying sophisticated deep learning technologies to create cancer therapeutics that are personalized for each patient. We’re looking forward to working with Gritstone’s experienced team as they continue to make significant steps towards developing a new class of cancer immunotherapies.”