Celgene and Takeda have invested in Presage Biosciences. The series D sets up Presage to expand use of an intratumoral microdosing platform designed to quickly evaluate how experimental solid tumor therapies perform in humans.
Today, cancer drug developers typically test experimental candidates in animals before moving into phase 1 trials that assess low doses in patients. This workflow has some flaws. Data from mice are an imperfect predictor of performance in humans, meaning some drugs that impress in animals quickly stumble in phase 1. As even small phase 1 trials take time and money, these failures waste resources.
Presage wants to provide a bridge between preclinical and phase 1 to enable drug developers to find out how their drugs perform in humans without spending as much time and money. Companies have explored the use of such a bridge, known as phase 0 for years, but Presage has a different take.
Rather than administer a small amount of the drug systemically—as happened in earlier phase 0 trials—Presage delivers one or more candidates directly into part of the solid tumor. The technology creates columns of multiple fluorescent drugs that interact with tumor cells for 1 to 3 days. After that, the treated part of the tumor is removed for analysis.
The potential for the platform to show how cancer therapies react with tumors in humans has attracted the attention of drug developers, including Celgene and Takeda. The biopharma companies came together to invest $6 million in Presage, bringing its total fundraising haul up to $26 million.
“This financing allows us to expand our clinical operation and advance the design of our current device to reach a wider array of solid tumors,” Presage’s Richard Klinghoffer, Ph.D., said in a statement.
Klinghoffer joined Presage as CSO but is now replacing Nathan Caffo as CEO. Caffo was Presage’s first employee and has spent the past nine years at the company. After leaving, Caffo will continue to advise the company on business and strategic matters.