Indapta snags $50M financing and signs on former Juno exec as CEO

Indapta Therapeutics has raised more than $50 million in series A financing and has tapped former Juno Therapeutics executive Mark Frohlich, M.D., as its new CEO in a sprint toward the clinic.  

Leading the financing were RA Capital Management, Vertex Ventures and Leaps by Bayer, the investment arm of the major pharma. In an interview with Fierce Biotech earlier this year, Leaps leader Jürgen Eckhardt, M.D, said the organization was looking at an additional eight to 10 investments this year and that it was focused on “fewer but maybe bigger bets going forward.”

Leaps participating in the Indapta financing marks at least the fifth investment for the firm already this year, joining Dewpoint, Metagenomi, Gandeeva and Cellino. 

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Indapta says the money will be used to expand the biotech's staff and continue to push its natural killer (NK) cell platform toward a new drug application and clinical trials. The company has high hopes for the platform's clinical benefit when used in conjunction with monoclonal antibodies. 

At Juno, Frohlich oversaw the company’s portfolio strategy while it developed the cell-based gene therapy Breyanzi. The drug has since changed hands twice, first in 2018 after Celgene acquired Juno and then again after Bristol Myers Squibb bought Celgene. Last year, that drug was approved by the FDA to treat lymphoma in patients who did not respond to or relapsed after at least two systemic treatments. In its inaugural year, the drug brought in $40 million for BMS. 

Prior to joining Juno, Frohlich was the chief medical officer at Dendreon and led the development of Provenge, an autologous cellular immunotherapy designed to treat prostate cancer. The FDA originally rejected the drug in 2007 citing a lack of clinical and manufacturing data, but regulators eventually gave it a go-ahead two years later following an additional clinical trial. 

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Frohlich also sits on the boards of NEUVOGEN and BioEclipse Therapies, both of which focus on immuno-oncology treatments. 

The move marks the first change in the CEO seat since Indapta launched in 2017, but the company’s co-founder and founding CEO Guy DiPierro is staying close to home, moving to chief strategy officer. 

In connection with the financing, Fabio Pucci, Ph.D., senior director of venture investments for health at Leaps, will be joining Indapta’s board as will Laura Stoppel, Ph.D, principal at RA Capital Management. 

Kyle LaHucik contributed to this story.