Tessa Therapeutics dissolves after raising more than $200M

Singapore-based cell therapy biotech Tessa Therapeutics has shut down, according to two sources that worked with the biotech.

The company formally shut its doors Friday, June 30, according to a source familiar with the matter. The closure was also confirmed by Jason Rando, chief operating officer of a media consulting company that worked with the biotech. News of the biotech’s dissolution was first reported by The Business Times, citing a letter to shareholders. The company reportedly told shareholders it was unable to raise additional capital or find a buyer, citing the difficult market conditions. The company’s website now says it’s under maintenance. 

It’s a wicked bout of whiplash for Tessa just more than a year after bagging $126 million in new financing led by Polaris Partners. The biotech said at the time that the money would finance its clinical cell therapy ambitions, which revolved around targeting CD30-expressing cancer cells. The company’s two top assets, TT11 and TT11X, were autologous and allogeneic candidates, respectively. 

“As we look to 2022 and beyond, Tessa is poised to emerge as a true leader in the cell therapy industry given the significant potential of our autologous and allogeneic cell therapy platforms combined with the scale and sophistication of our technical operation,” then-acting CEO John Ng said in a release at the time of the financing.

Early data from Tessa’s ongoing phase 2 trial of TT11 found that the treatment notched a 57.1% complete response rate in patients with classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a 71.4% complete response rate. The trial was expected to advance in the middle of 2023. 

Tessa previously completed a phase 3 trial testing autologous cytotoxic T cells in patients after rounds of chemotherapy, but the addition of the immuno-therapy did not notably improve outcomes. The addition of the lab-tweaked T-cells was found to spur a 57.3% partial response rate compared to 54.8% for chemo alone. But the chemo-only regimen elicited more complete responses than Tessa’s T-cell addition. 

Tessa’s clinical ambitions were matched with an aggressive partnering and business development strategy, much of which came to fruition in 2017. That year the biotech announced collaborations with the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and oncolytic virus maker Vyriad. It also scooped up Euchloe Bio, tacking on a suite of checkpoint inhibitors. 

The company’s leadership also recently underwent an overhaul, with former Takeda executive Thomas Willemsen taking over as CEO in August 2022. Willemsen was previously SVP of Asia-Pacific operations for the Japanese pharmaceutical.