UPDATED: Third Rock backs $14M round for Igenica's cancer-fighting antibodies

The antibody upstart Igenica has rounded up $14 million in venture cash to move its lead drug into the clinic. The Column Group, 5AM Ventures, OrbiMed and Third Rock Ventures all participated in the round.

Much of the money is being earmarked for an early-stage clinical program for IGN523, an anti-CD98 antibody that is being put into the clinic for acute myeloid leukemia (AML). CEO Mary Haak-Frendscho tells FierceBiotech that the company plans to start enrolling the first patients for a Phase Ia study which will help clarify the safety profile of the therapy and offer an early readout on its activity in patients. This is a novel approach to AML that has the potential to improve outcomes for a large group of AML patients, she adds. As a "naked" antibody it also has the potential to be combined with other therapies to offer new combination strategies.

"The final feature is that in addition to AML it could also be used in several other cancer types, including solid tumors like squamous cell lung" cancer, says the CEO. Igenica will be studying that added potential as it considers new IND filings.

Third Rock led a $33 million C round for Igenica back in 2012, bringing the biotech's total raise at the time to $55 million. The biotech touts its use of a trio of technologies to track down promising next-gen antibodies for multiple cancer uses. One of its platform technologies is dubbed sTAg, which Igenica describes as "a new approach to discovering and prioritizing novel tumor antigens." A second platform is called iTAb, a functional in vivo antibody screening approach.

Haak-Frendscho says Igenica's 42 staffers have been building up their internal antibody-drug conjugate know-how, offering the biotech the chance to follow in the footsteps of Seattle Genetics in a certain respect and work on its own internal programs while opening up new partnerships. Igenica's business development team is working on collaborations now, she adds, that are designed to help fund the company past this extension of its Series C.

- here's the release