The pharmaceutical startup Tizona Therapeutics is developing the next generation immunotherapies for both cancer and autoimmune diseases. Their therapies are designed to modulate the activity of immunosuppressive cells, including regulatory T cells (Tregs), myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) and tolerogenic dendritic cells (DCs). By doing so, they activate the body’s ability to fight cancer.
Tizona’s lead program is an Anti-CCR4 antibody that selectively deplete Tregs and prevent them from migrating into the tumor microenvironment. Studies suggest that Tregs in the tumor microenvironment prevent the immune system from eradicating cancer, and Tizona’s anti-CCR4 antibody is expected to perform well when entering clinical trials in 2017.
The startup’s pipeline also include an IL-35 program, a recently discovered immunosuppressive cytokine expressed by Tregs. IL-35 suppress anti-tumor immunity through modulation of effector T cells, as well as myeloid cells. Although very early in the development, blocking the activity of IL-35 seem to reverse immune suppression, leading to a anti-tumor response.
Despite considerable advancements to immunotherapies, significant challenges still remain. As we get a better and more precise understanding of the interaction between cancer and the immune system, as well as the tumor microenvironment, we have the opportunity to develop new powerful cancer therapies. With a renowned and accomplished team, Tizona is well positioned to be a leader in this development, potentially changing standards of care for multiple cancer types. Their novel understanding and approach to immunotherapy give hope to a next generation therapy that could revolutionize how we perceive cancer.
The startup recently announced the closing of a $43 million Series B financing, making the total funding to more than $70 million. The financing was co-led by Abingworth and Canaan Partners with investments from Lightstone Ventures and existing Series A investors, including MPM Capital, Amgen Ventures, Astellas Venture Management and InterWest Partners. The funding will be used to advance the company’s lead program into clinical trials.