Industry vets launch Tentarix with $50M to develop antibody-based cancer-killing treatments

A stacked lineup of industry vets from Eli Lilly, Versant, Amgen and more is teaming up to advance the field of multifunctional biotherapeutics. The seasoned executive team is launching Tentarix Biotherapeutics with the help of $50 million in series A fundraising.

Co-led by Versant Ventures and Samsara BioCapital, the financing will help the team develop programs for oncology and autoimmune diseases via its technology platform, the company said Thursday.

The biotech, which will be based in both Vancouver and San Diego, has assembled a team of 30 individuals to start off with. The team includes Paul Grayson at the helm as president and CEO. Grayson is a Versant venture partner who has experience in helping found companies like Aurora Biosciences, which was acquired by Vertex, and Senomyx, which was acquired by Firmenich.

Also on the team is Chief Scientific Officer Stephen Demarest, Ph.D., formerly head of Eli Lilly's protein engineering and computational biotherapeutics departments. Chief Development Officer Margaret Karow was a senior vice president for Xilio, executive director at Amgen and vice president at Regeneron.

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Tentarix's platform creates antibody-based biotherapeutics to activate or inhibit specific cell populations for various functions. The company will develop IL-2 treatments in oncology and autoimmune disease, becoming the latest biotech to tap into the cytokine landscape.

These therapies aim to activate immune cells to kill cancer without also turning on other immune cells that can cause adverse events. 

The company's lead program is a multifunctional therapeutic that targets the IL-2 receptor, a protein on the surface of certain immune cells that activate T cells, which are critical to immune defense against cancer and intracellular viruses and bacteria.