Biotechnology company Tentarix Biotherapeutics LP today announced a $50 million Series A investment co-led by Versant Ventures and Samsara BioCapital.
“The advent of technologies to produce high-precision biologics to engage multiple disease targets represents a major advance,” said President and CEO Paul Grayson, a Venture Partner at Versant Ventures. “This financing allows us to develop multiple programs for oncology and autoimmune disease based on the Tentarix technology platform.”
A novel platform for generating multifunctional biotherapeutics
Tentarix’s platform creates next generation antibody-based multifunctional biotherapeutics that achieve unprecedented specificity and unique activity. Such products can conditionally activate or inhibit specific cell populations, for example, only activating immune cells that kill cancer cells without activating other immune cells that may create adverse effects.
Previously, the field of multifunctional biotherapeutics has been largely limited to engaging only two targets and has predominantly focused on a few areas of biology, such as T cell engagers. These limitations are due to challenges in discovering molecules that have the desired pharmacology, functional activity, and manufacturability.
Tentarix overcomes these historical challenges. The company's proprietary platform facilitates high throughput discovery and optimization of biotherapeutics with high cell selectivity, differentiated functionality, and robust mammalian expression that enables molecular developability. The company has already generated proof of concept data in multiple receptor classes.
“It is gratifying to see the vision of multifunctional protein therapeutics shared with the Tentarix founders rapidly develop into a transformative discovery and development company,” said Srini Akkaraju, M.D., Ph.D., Managing General Partner at Samsara and Tentarix Chairman. “We believe this powerful platform has broad potential to create differentiated, conditional biotherapeutics across multiple therapeutic areas and with a range of unique and important functionalities.”
The lead program is a multifunctional therapeutic with one subunit that targets the IL2R gamma receptor, a subunit that targets the IL2R beta receptor and other subunits that bind to cell surface proteins on a specific subset of T cells. Potent activity only occurs when all targets are engaged simultaneously to direct powerful biology to this important subset of cells.
Tentarix is advancing programs in many other fields including cell type specific reprogramming and cell population specific delivery and internalization.
“The ability to screen millions of multifunctional molecules for activity and conditionality is a breakthrough,” said Jerel Davis, Ph.D., Managing Director at Versant and Tentarix board member. “We believe the team and technology assembled at Tentarix will enable a pipeline of first-in-class biologics with unique function.”
Tentarix is led by a seasoned executive team with decades of experience in discovering and developing biologics. More than 30 individuals that include experts in protein engineering, cell surface proteomics, and discovery technology have been assembled in San Diego, California and Vancouver, British Columbia.
- Paul Grayson, President, CEO, is a seasoned platform company creator and a Venture Partner at Versant. His experiences include founding roles at Aurora Biosciences (acquired by Vertex), Senomyx (acquired by Firmench), Fate Therapeutics (NASDAQ:FATE) and Bird Rock Bio.
- Stephen Demarest, Chief Scientific Officer, was head of Eli Lilly’s Protein Engineering and Computational Biotherapeutics Departments.
- Margaret Karow, Chief Development Officer, was Senior Vice President of Preclinical Development for Xilio, Executive Director at Amgen and Vice President at Regeneron.
- Paul Kang, Senior Vice President of Corporate Development, was involved in the development and application of antibody generation technologies at ImmGenics, Abgenix, Amgen and Innovative Targeting Solutions.
- Alyssa Levin, Chief Financial Officer, was the chief financial officer of Bird Rock Bio and in healthcare finance with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
In addition to Paul Grayson, Paul Kang, Drs. Akkaraju and Davis, Tentarix’s board includes Dr. Marcos Milla, Venture Partner at Samsara BioCapital and former Chief Scientific Officer of Synthorx Inc., acquired by Sanofi.
Tentarix’s mission is to develop first-in-class targeted, multifunctional, conditional therapies. The Company is focused on modalities that have cell specific function and has built a team that aims to transform biologics. For more information, please visit www.tentarix.com.
About Versant Ventures
Versant Ventures is a leading healthcare venture capital firm committed to helping exceptional entrepreneurs build the next generation of great companies. The firm’s emphasis is on biotechnology companies that are discovering and developing novel therapeutics. With $4.2 billion under management and offices in the U.S., Canada and Europe, Versant has built a team with deep investment, operating and R&D expertise that enables a hands-on approach to company building. Since the firm’s founding in 1999, more than 85 Versant companies have achieved successful acquisitions or IPOs. For more information, please visit www.versantventures.com.
About Samsara BioCapital
Samsara BioCapital is a new breed of biotech investment fund focused on translating cutting-edge biology into new therapies to treat patients with unmet medical needs. Founded in 2016 by Srinivas Akkaraju, M.D., Ph.D., our team of scientists, investors and entrepreneurs takes a long-term view to value creation across all stages of public and private life science companies. We believe in a collaborative, hands-on approach, working closely with entrepreneurs to harness exciting scientific advances and build leading companies. Samsara actively manages assets on behalf of endowments, foundations and family offices. For more information, please visit www.samsaracap.com.