CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Jan 08, 2015 -- Surface Oncology, a new company developing next-generation cancer immunotherapies, announced today that it has closed a $35 million Series A investment round led by Atlas Venture, which initially seeded the company in 2014, Fidelity Biosciences, Lilly Ventures, and New Enterprise Associates (NEA). Also joining the Series A were Amgen Ventures, Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research (NIBR), and Elliott Sigal, MD, former head of R&D at Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), who will also join the company's scientific advisory board (SAB).
The company is advancing a number of programs toward clinical development that are designed to build on the success of first-generation immune therapies, targeting newly understood mechanisms responsible for enabling tumor cells to evade detection by the immune system.
"Immunotherapy is one of the most significant breakthroughs for cancer treatment in the past several decades, and while current approaches are transformative for the field, they remain insufficient," said David Grayzel, MD, Chairman and acting Chief Executive Officer at Surface Oncology, and partner at Atlas Venture. "By targeting novel areas of biology at the intersection of innate and adaptive immunity, we hope to expand the arsenal of immunotherapies, with the goal of treating a greater number of patients across a wider range of tumor types than are addressed by these agents today."
The proven ability to harness the immune system to detect and kill cancer cells has ushered in a new era of cancer treatment. Current approaches - focused on blocking a specific "immune checkpoint" pathway that cancer cells exploit - have been transformational for some patients, but are limited in the types of cancers they treat, the overall number of patients who benefit, and in many instances, the magnitude and duration of response.
Surface Oncology's initial discovery and development efforts focus on programs outside of checkpoint inhibition that are known to play a role in enabling cancer cells to escape detection and eradication by the immune system. The company has active pre-clinical programs in several of these areas, including therapies designed to improve the effectiveness of antigen presentation; to block the activity of suppressor cells in the tumor microenvironment; or to counter the impact of specific inhibitory cytokines and metabolites. Preclinical findings suggest that these approaches may offer powerful benefits both as monotherapy and in combination with existing immunotherapies. The company is advancing a broad pipeline based on these approaches and anticipates identifying lead candidates for clinical development in 2015.
The Company's founders and Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) members include luminaries in the field of cancer immunotherapy, including co-chairs Sasha Rudensky, PhD, Professor and Chair of Immunology, Memorial Sloan Kettering and Director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy, and Arlene Sharpe, MD, PhD, Professor, Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. They are joined on the SAB by Christopher Hunter, PhD, Professor, University of Pennsylvania; Carla Rothlin, PhD, Associate Professor, Yale University; Elliott Sigal, MD, former head of R&D for BMS; John Stagg, PhD, Professor, Cancer Institute of Montreal; and John Wherry, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania.
Also joining the company's Board of Directors are Robert Garland, MD, Partner at NEA, Armen Shanafelt, PhD, General Partner at Lilly Ventures, and Robert Weisskoff, PhD, Partner at Fidelity Biosciences.
About Surface Oncology
Surface Oncology was created to advance next-generation approaches to cancer immunotherapy based on proprietary insights about novel immunotherapy targets and emerging areas of cancer immuno-biology. Together with world-leading scientific founders, the Company is advancing multiple preclinical programs that target novel mechanisms shown to play vital roles in tumor immune-evasion. Surface is based in Cambridge, Mass.
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Amanda Guisbond, 617-761-6797