Sonoma Bio debuts with $40M to push Treg treatments for autoimmune, neuro diseases

Human T cell
Sonoma counts ARCH Venture Partners, Milky Way Ventures, 8VC and Lyell Immunopharma among its series A backers. (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

Sonoma Biotherapeutics launched with a mission to create regulatory T-cell treatments for autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases, $40 million in series A financing and renowned immunologist, Jeffrey Bluestone, Ph.D., at its helm. 

Bluestone lands at Sonoma after leading the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy as its president and CEO. He’s a longtime immunologist credited with the discovery of the function of CTLA-4, a major target for cancer immunotherapies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Yervoy. Sonoma’s founders include other prominent scientists in the regulatory T-cell (or Treg) field, including Qizhi Tang, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco; Alexander Rudensky, Ph.D., of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and Fred Ramsdell, Ph.D., who will serve as the company’s chief scientific officer. 

Sonoma, which is based in South San Francisco and Seattle, will develop treatments for people who can’t control their autoimmune or degenerative diseases with current drugs. The hope is that Treg therapy could restore self-tolerance in the body by blocking inflammatory responses in diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis as well as in those like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Alzheimer’s. 

FREE DAILY NEWSLETTER

Like this story? Subscribe to FierceBiotech!

Biopharma is a fast-growing world where big ideas come along every day. Our subscribers rely on FierceBiotech as their must-read source for the latest news, analysis and data in the world of biotech and pharma R&D. Sign up today to get biotech news and updates delivered to your inbox and read on the go.

RELATED: Rapt Therapeutics revives IPO, files to raise $75M 

“Tregs have a clear role in many of these conditions. These cells' natural ability to migrate to inflamed tissues and control harmful immune responses make them ideal for treating a range of conditions,” the company said in a statement. What’s more, Treg cells can be engineered to hit specific disease-causing antigens, which can reduce the side effects of current drugs, such as systemic immunosuppressants. 

"With this team and our assembled expertise and technologies, we are in an ideal position to move adoptive cell therapy beyond cancer, to establish safe, effective and long-lasting treatments for a range of conditions where current drugs and biologics are simply not good enough," Bluestone said in a statement. "As the immune system's master regulators of protecting the body against self-destruction, Treg cell therapy is perhaps the ideal means to shut down unwanted immune reactions and provide meaningful treatment for patients." 

RELATED: GSK taps Lyell Immunopharma to take cell therapy to the next level 

Sonoma counts ARCH Venture Partners, Milky Way Ventures, 8VC and Lyell Immunopharma among its series A backers. It has struck a partnership with Lyell to share technology and knowledge to boost the durability, stability and specificity of cell therapies in their areas of interest. Last October, Lyell teamed up with GlaxoSmithKline to apply its technology to the Big Pharma’s cell therapy stable to boost the “fitness” of T cells and improve their effectiveness in solid tumors.

Suggested Articles

Wedding Five Prime Therapeutics’ cabiralizumab to Bristol-Myers Squibb’s checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo has proved to be a bust in pancreatic cancer.

In an SEC filing, Baxter International disclosed that it may have overstated its income over multiple years, inflating it by about $276 million.

The FDA has given Grail a green light to conduct the interventional study, and it has begun enrolling participants through the company’s R&D partners.