Cell therapy upstart lines up for a $20M round with the Hutch in tow

Fred Hutch's Dr. Colleen Delaney

Seattle startup Nohla Therapeutics is developing an off-the-shelf alternative to bone marrow transplants, securing $20 million in venture commitments and partnering up with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to push its efforts forward.

The company signed a deal with Fred Hutch that gives it worldwide rights to technology that uses re-engineered umbilical cord blood to craft a patient-agnostic product that could be used in lieu of donor marrow. The platform, based on work from Fred Hutch's Dr. Colleen Delaney, allows for the manufacture of cord blood free of human leukocyte antigen, which triggers graft rejection in transplants, and thus creates a one-size-fits-all cell therapy, Nohla said.

The technology is already in the midst of a randomized Phase IIb trial comparing Nohla's technology with conventional cord blood transplant, the company said. In a Phase I safety study, Nohla's platform significantly lowered rates of graft-versus-host disease and transplant-related mortality, according to the company, at the same time boosting blood cell recovery. The biotech is hoping to expand on those results in larger trials, believing its cell therapy could have wide applications in a variety of diseases.

To advance the product, Nohla has signed a 5-year clinical collaboration agreement with Fred Hutch, enlisting the cancer center's help with ongoing preclinical and clinical programs as it works to bring its technology to market. Delaney is joining the company as chief medical officer, and co-inventor Irwin Bernstein, of Seattle Children's Hospital, has taken a seat on Nohla's scientific advisory board.

Nohla expects to close its $20 million term sheet this month.

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