Gritstone Oncology Raises $93 Million For Personalized Cancer Vaccines

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Gritstone Oncology is a biotech company that is developing personalized cancer treatments. The company just raised $93 million to get their drugs into human trials.

Gritstone is working on developing a type of cancer immunotherapy called cancer vaccines that looks to help intensify the body’s immune system to fight off cancer cells. The series B round was led by Lilly Asia Ventures and joined by GV, formerly known as Google Ventures, Trinitas Capital and Alexandria Venture Investments.

Chief Executive Officer of Gritstone, Dr. Andrew Allen reported that the round would help get the company ready to begin clinical trials in humans by the middle of next year. The treatment, which is customized based on a person’s tumor mutations, is meant to essentially “prime” the immune system. The goal is that by using the vaccine combined with the checkpoint inhibitors, you may be able to get more responses.

This is first time GV’s invested in a cancer vaccine, Dr. Anthony Philippakis, a partner at GV, reported. Previously, GV has invested in a variety of life sciences startups, including 23andMe, Flatiron Health, and Foundation Medicine. Allen reported having GV on board is helpful, because of GV’s experience with deep learning, something Gritstone’s using to make the personalized vaccines.

There’s a lot of buzz surfacing personalized genetics currently. Last month, the FDA approved the first cell therapy for cancer, a treatment called Kymriah. The drug is customized in a different way, by taking cells from a person, and reprogramming them attack tumor cells in the body. The end-goal of these more customized approaches is the same: make the body better at fighting off cancer cells.

“This is the best shot we have of actually curing people,” Allen stated.

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