|Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos|
Amazon ($AMZN) founder and new media mogul Jeff Bezos is investing a bit of his personal fortune in Seattle-based Juno Therapeutics, a biotech startup that's been making some big waves in the immunotherapy world.
Just weeks after Juno launched with great fanfare, the biotech announced that Bezos' personal investment group, Bezos Expeditions, helped add $25 million to Juno's already bountiful $120 million A round with the assistance of Venrock. Juno also added some marquee players to its board today, including Marc Tessier-Lavigne, the former CSO at Genentech and current president of The Rockefeller University in New York City.
Juno is the brainchild of some of the world's top scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering and the Seattle Children's Research Institute. The company in-licensed technology from St. Jude's regarding chimeric antigen receptors, which its founders believe can be used to reprogram immune T cells that can then be directed against cancer cells. That CAR-T tech is similar to the approach being used by Novartis ($NVS) and the University of Pennsylvania's Carl June, and the principals are already deep into litigation over the intellectual property that's being employed.
In early research, the founders say that Juno's approach eradicated cancer cells in 10 of 12 leukemia patients, indicating potential to transform the standard of care in oncology.
Bezos has been investing some of his Amazon fortune in a variety of ventures, including Business Insider, the Washington Post and Sapphire Energy. But this is the first straight biotech investment that Fierce has come across so far.
"This is an exciting time for Juno," said Hans Bishop, CEO, in a statement. "The investments from Bezos Expeditions and Venrock will help accelerate our growth as we work to transform how we treat cancer."