Pionyr Immunotherapeutics gains meaty $62M series B

California startup Pionyr is using $62 million of VC-backed funding to target antibodies in the tumor microenvironment.

The early-stage, San Francisco-based biotech has a batch of preclinical antibody programs, two of which are nearing IND-enabling studies targeting solid tumors. These programs are directed at myeloid tuning in the tumor microenvironment.

The new cash boost sees the company's overall money raised swell to $72 million since 2015. The series B is led by New Enterprise Associates and includes Sofinnova Ventures and Vida Ventures, along with Pionyr’s existing investors: OrbiMed, SV Health Investors, Osage University Partners and Mission Bay Ventures.

Pionyr's tech, myeloid tuning, is designed to rebalance the tumor microenvironment to favor immune-activating myeloid cells over immune-suppressing myeloid cells. This activity is believed to enhance antitumor efficacy, particularly in combination with checkpoint inhibition.

The biotech also said this tech can help predict checkpoint inhibitor responsiveness, which could hint at future tie-ups with PD-1 and PD-L1 drugs (with two of its staffers having already worked on Yervoy and Keytruda).

“Our technology has led to a promising pipeline of potential new therapeutics against novel and highly specific targets in the tumor microenvironment,” said Max Krummel, Ph.D., UC San Francisco professor, Pionyr co-founder and board member. “We believe these drug candidates hold the keys to an untapped area of immuno-oncology and may have a significant impact on multiple cancers.”

Krummel has been a pioneer in immuno-oncology since the mid-1990s and was one of the inventors behind Bristol-Myers Squibb’s first checkpoint inhibitor Yervoy (ipilimumab).

Co-founder Sachdev Sidhu, Ph.D., a protein engineer, was formerly at Genentech and is now head of protein engineering and antibody discovery at the University of Toronto.

Pionyr also boasts a former Gilead and Merck vet in the form of Michel Streuli, Ph.D., who now serves as the company’s senior vice president of research.

The biotech said its aim is to create the “next generation of immuno-oncology therapeutics after checkpoint inhibitors and CAR-T.”