After spending the past year in the hot seat as chairman at a badly dysfunctional Teva, Celgene co-funder Sol Barer can get back to the business of ramping up biotech startups. This morning we received word that Barer has lined up a $23 million A round to get I/O fledgling NexImmune into the clinic.
Barer, Joshua Barer and former Medtronic CEO William Hawkins got together early last year — around the time Teva began to come apart at the seams — to acquire the Johns Hopkins spinout, based in Gaithersburg, MD.
The big idea at NexImmune was fostered by Johns Hopkins professor Jonathan Schneck, who’s been designing nanoparticles to act as antigen-presenting cells to wave a red flag in the face of T cells — looking to incite an attack on cancer cells. If it works, the new tech could spark a more durable attack that would involve more targets and less likelihood of a setback for patients — particularly if they can make an impact on naïve and memory T cells to keep the human immune system on alert.
A Phase I/II trial can now get underway later this year.
New investor ArrowMark Partners joined Barer & Son Capital and Piedmont Capital Partners on the round, with Tony Yao at ArrowMark joining the board.
Barer has had his hands full as chairman of Teva, but after a lengthy search new CEO Kåre Schultz is now in charge of a controversial plan to tear the company down to a sustainable size, with 14,000 layoffs in the works.
“NexImmune has developed a very practical, precise system that may transform the way we use technology to direct the immune system,” Barer said in a statement. “We are excited about the potential of this ‘next generation’ approach to help patients with a variety of cancers.”