Capstan Therapeutics launches with $165M to deliver on in vivo cell engineering

mRNA, biotech

Capstan Therapeutics, Inc. has launched today with $165 million in financing to combine cell therapy and genetic medicines to help bring safer, first-in-class medicines to more patients in multiple indications.

Capstan Therapeutics’ foundational precision in vivo engineering technology builds on research conducted in the laboratories of mRNA and cell therapy scientists at the University of Pennsylvania.

Capstan Therapeutics’ funding includes a recently closed $102 million series A financing led by Pfizer Ventures and joined by Leaps by Bayer, Eli Lilly and Company, Bristol Myers Squibb, Polaris Partners, Alexandria Venture Investments, and all existing investors, which follows a $63 million seed financing led by Novartis Venture Fund and OrbiMed and joined by RA Capital, and Vida Ventures in November 2021.

Capstan Therapeutics plans to advance breakthrough therapies

Capstan Therapeutics plans to use the funds to further its mission of advancing the clinical promise of cell-based therapies by enabling precise in vivo engineering of cells with payloads necessary to benefit patients across multiple disease categories. 

Capstan Therapeutics’ modular platform includes proprietary targeted lipid nanoparticles (tLNP) technology, a suite of targeting moieties to mediate cell type-specific uptake, and disease-specific mRNA payloads aimed at directly engineering, or ablating pathogenic cells through in vivo generated CAR T cells.

Capstan Therapeutics is prioritizing programs based on the potential to transform clinical standards of care. The company’s initial efforts will focus on developing first-in-class in vivo CAR therapies, with the goal to deliver treatments in an outpatient setting, for patients who have diseases for which there are no effective treatments. 

Capstan Therapeutics also plans to leverage its precision delivery and engineering technology to advance new therapies for certain monogenic blood disorders.

Capstan Therapeutics also announced that Laura Shawver has joined the company as president and chief executive officer. 

The company’s scientific founders include several from the University of Pennsylvania who authored two studies establishing preclinical proof-of-concept for non-viral, in vivo CAR-T therapy that Capstan Therapeutics plans to develop and advance toward the clinic. 

New treatment options

A 2019 Nature publication demonstrated the preclinical use of ex vivo CAR-T cell therapy against FAP, a fibrosis-related target. A follow-on study published in Science earlier this year built on these earlier results and demonstrated the production of functional CAR-T cells in vivo in a mouse model following a single IV administration of an mRNA encoding an anti-FAP CAR packaged in CD5-targeted-LNPs. 

“Research conducted at Penn demonstrates the tremendous promise of harnessing mRNA and targeted LNP delivery to train a patient’s body to make CAR-T cells in vivo, potentially creating new treatment options,” said Jonathan Epstein, chief scientific officer at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. 

“We believe this approach has the potential to make an important impact not only in oncology, but also in fibrosis and many other diseases. My fellow scientific co-founders and I all look forward to actively partnering with Capstan in our collaborative effort to develop medicines that may benefit patients around the world.”

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