Former Pfizer exec invests in $10M Series A for cancer startup

Intensity Therapeutics plans to get into the clinic with a reformulation approach to cancer immunotherapy with a new $10 million Series A financing. The round includes Dr. Declan Doogan, the former SVP and head of worldwide drug development at Pfizer ($PFE), who will also join the Westport, CT startup's board as part of the investment.

The company is focused on developing novel formulations of existing chemotherapy drugs to treat solid tumors that are bound to a cell permeation enhancer. The idea is to trigger an adaptive immune response by injecting their candidates, with their high diffusion and dispersion properties, directly into tumors. The company expects this approach could not only destroy or regress the tumor, but also protect against re-inoculation with the same cancer.

"Intensity’s strong preclinical data convinced me that the technology being pioneered by the company has the potential to be a major step forward for the treatment of solid tumors,” said Doogan in a statement. “It was their novel, anti-cancer, immune-based therapeutic approach combined with the solid management team that prompted me to become involved with the company.”

The cash will go to start Phase I/II trials of the company’s lead candidate, INT230-6, which emerged from its DfuseRxSM platform technology. In preclinical animal models, it resulted in substantial improvement in overall survival versus standard treatment—and offered durable protection against re-inoculations with the cancer. It’s been tested in severe, late-stage pancreatic, breast and colon cancers animal models.

“Our lead drug, INT230-6, has shown strong results in severe murine models of metastatic cancer via a combination of direct tumor killing and immune system activation. Not only do a high percentage of animals given large tumors achieve a complete response, those animals develop a ‘vaccine–like’ protection against re-exposure to the same cancer,” said Intensity President and CEO Lewis Bender.

Intensity Therapeutics was founded in 2012 by Bender, the former CEO of Interleukin Genetics.

“We received strong interest from investors to participate in our Series A financing, the amount of which was increased to meet demand,” he added. “Proceeds will be used to fund operations, manufacture the clinical supplies, permit the needed regulatory filings and conduct a series of clinical trial cohorts in cancer patients with various tumor types.”

In addition to Doogan, also participating in the financing were Batterson Venture Capital, VCapital, FastForward Innovations, SalvaRx Group, and Jim Mellon as well as other accredited investors and family offices.

Dr. Emer Leahy, CEO of preclinical CNS service company PsychoGenics, is also joining the Intensity board with the financing.

- here is the release

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