Oncolytic immunotherapy biotech CG Oncology nabs $47M round for late-stage cancer push

Californian immuno-oncology biotech CG Oncology has reeled in a $47 million series D—and, surely, an IPO isn’t far behind—as it looks to phase 3 trials.

The funding was led by new investor Kissei Pharmaceutical with help from existing investors ORI Healthcare Fund, Camford Capital and Perseverance Capital Management.

The $47 million will go toward late-stage clinical programs for its lead oncolytic immunotherapy, CG0070, which includes the phase 3 test for CG0070 on its own in BCG-unresponsive, non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC).

It will also help in its midstage combo of CG0070 with Merck’s blockbuster checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda, also in NMIBC, and earlier effort with Bristol Myers Squibb's rival Opdivo in certain muscle-invasive bladder cancer patients.

There is a growing research interest in oncolytic programs from biotech, with the tech working as cancer-killing viruses designed to destroy solid tumors while triggering a long-term systemic immune response to keep cancer in remission.

In 2015, the FDA approved the first oncolytic virus immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer—T-VEC for melanoma, better known as Amgen’s Imlygic. This treatment involves a herpes virus that has been engineered to be less likely to infect healthy cells as well as cause infected cancer cells to produce the immune-stimulating GM-CSF protein.

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But this did not open the floodgates for more approvals, as it often doesn’t work in patients with metastatic disease and because translating cancer-killing viruses into treatments has proven challenging, partly because the immune system tends to eradicate them before they can reach cancer cells.

Work continues to overcome this, and CG Oncology is one of the furthest along in terms of new development.

“We are excited to close our Series D round of funding, which will allow us to advance our late-stage pipeline, as new treatment options are desperately needed for patients with bladder cancer,” said Arthur Kuan, CEO of CG Oncology.

“Our clinical progress in oncology is a testament to oncolytic immunotherapy as a novel approach, with our lead candidate CG0070 in both monotherapy and combination therapy studies. The support of leading global investors comes at a pivotal time for CG Oncology, with our lead monotherapy program advancing to BLA, and our combination programs of CG0070 with approved anti-PD-1 antibody therapies advancing in the clinic.”