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Immune Design Gets $49M For Cancer Therapy
2013-11-22

The Seattle cancer-immunotherapy company will begin clinical trials to be run from a new San Francisco office.

Four-year-old biotechnology company Immune Design secured $32.5 million from investors in its third round of financing, allowing the Seattle firm to take its two leading cancer-immunotherapy candidates to clinical trials.

After initial clinical data are compiled, the investors may choose to put in an additional   $16.5 million to advance its work in using people’s own immune systems to fight cancer, the company is announcing Wednesday.

“There are some people who have immune systems that stop working to fight a cancer, and then the cancer grows,” Chief Executive Carlos Paya said in an interview. “We are not doing anything but taking your own immune system and making it better to kill that cancer.”

Immune Design is developing immune-based therapies to fight cancer and other chronic diseases. The new funds will primarily be used to advance the company’s cancer-immunotherapy product pipeline, including starting clinical trials for its lead therapeutic candidates that target solid tumor cancers. The company has yet to disclose anything more about the specific cancer types.

This financing round was led by The Column Group and new investor Topspin Partners, with Sanofi-Genzyme BioVentures also joining as a new investor. Existing investors Alta Partners, Versant Ventures, Osage Partners and ProQuest Investments, which in total invested $52 Million in the previous two rounds, also participated.

While the clinical trial will take place in San Francisco, the company will remain Seattle-based, keeping the headquarters and research facility here.

Over the past two months, Immune Design has expanded its management team, adding four veteran executives who will work out of a new San Francisco office during the clinical trials. Stephen Brady is the new chief business officer; Richard Kennedy, chief medical officer; Jan Henrick ter Meulen, chief scientific officer; and Frank Hsu, vice president and head of oncology.

Depending on the results of the first two stages of clinical trials over the next three years, the third stage, which is aimed at getting FDA approval, will need more funding.

This is the first time the company’s cancer immunotherapies are going to clinical trial, Paya said. “We are all very excited to test these new technologies that nobody has tested before in cancer patients,” he said.