San Diego’s Poseida Therapeutics has raised $30.5 million in venture capital funding, the cancer therapy developer said Tuesday.
The Series B financing round was led by new investor Longitude Capital, along with Vivo Capital and the Tavistock Group. They were joined by an existing investor, Malin Corp.
Privately held Poseida has developed its own form of a powerful new cancer treatment using what are called CAR T cells. These are immune cells genetically engineered to fight cancer.
Just two CAR T cell treatments have been approved so by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but many more, like Poseida’s, are in clinical or preclinical testing.
Poseida is developing several versions of this therapy. The most advanced is now in early stage clinical testing. It’s being used in patients with relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow.
Poseida said the financing will help advance this therapy, and other versions. The version being tested, called P-BCMA-101, uses a patient’s own genetically engineered cells.
Information on that ongoing clinical trial can be found on the website www.clinicaltrials.gov by searching for Poseida.
Two other versions are in preclinical development by Poseida. One, called P-PSMA-101, treats prostate cancer with a patient’s engineered cells.
Allogenic cells can be prepared in advance, speeding therapy. But precautions must be taken to make sure these foreign cells don’t cause a potentially dangerous immune response.
CAR T cell therapy has raised hopes because it provides a method of precisely attacking cancer. The genetically engineered immune cells home in on a cellular target present on the cancer cells, but not on any essential cells.
Moreover, the immune cells can persist, ready to go on the attack again if the cancer recurs.
The therapy is risky, and some patients have died from uncontrolled immune responses. So it is now being used only on the very seriously ill, who have failed other treatments.
But the risk is going down, as doctors find ways to anticipate and control the most severe reactions.
The Poseida treatment now being tested in patients contains an additional precaution: a “safety switch” that makes the cells easily eliminated.