Initially formed as a shell company with seed financing in 2018, a year later ArsenalBio has emerged with an $85 million Series A round to finance its development of cell therapies for cancer.
“Founded to discover, develop and commercialize curative immune cell therapies,” The San Francisco-based biotech firm has caught the attention of investors for a little more than their innovative flair.
While investors included the likes of Westlake Village BioPartners, Kleiner Perkins, the University of California and San Francisco (UCSF), and the Foundation Investment Company, all eyes were on billionaire Sean Parker. Parker, known as the co-founder of Napster as well as being an early executive at Facebook founded the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy (PICI) in 2016 after his friend, Laura Ziskin died of breast cancer in 2011. Parker’s support of ArsenalBio has garnered the company a lot of attention, however, he isn’t the only impressive investor backing the start-up. Jane Grogan, retired principal scientist of cancer immunology at Genentech; Michael Kalos, former vice president of Immuno-oncology at Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals; and Tarjei Mikkelsen, former vice president of biology at biotech company 10x Genomics round up the company’s heavy-hitting investors.
“We’ve been busy refining our strategy, putting the team in place, [and] developing business plans,” says Ken Drazan, the founding CEO of ArsenalBio. “Now felt like the right time to allow the culture of the company to be externalized.”
What the company plans to do with the money, is to discover new gene pathways to fight cancer as well as use gene-editing technology, CRISPR to generate immune cells that can battle tumors.
“ArsenalBio allows us to rewrite vast stretches of code to give T cells dramatic new functions — that means they can be made to be more effective at killing cancer and a broad spectrum of other diseases,” said Parker in a statement. “It’s also very rewarding to see ArsenalBio born from the deep collaboration of PICI investigators — who worked together across research centers, hospitals and universities on the science behind these technologies. The company’s very existence demonstrates how much faster and better we can get therapies from bench to bedside when we collaborate and put patients first.”