Biotech startup Novasenta raises $40M to advance novel cancer therapeutics


Novasenta Inc., a U.S. startup biotech company focused on the discovery and validation of novel targets to develop cancer therapies, has completed $40 million in Series A financing.

The round was led by UPMC Enterprises. The funding will allow Novasenta to advance its pipeline of antibody-based therapeutics and expand its computational platforms for target discovery, while continuing to recruit.

Novasenta maps the tumor microenvironment — the network of cells and structures that surround and interact with tumor cells inside the body — to develop immunotherapies that enable the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. 

Co-founded in late 2018 by Robert Ferris, Dario Vignali, and Greg Delgoffe, all of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and the University of Pittsburgh, Novasenta said it is building on decades of research in the fields of tumor biology, immunology, computational biology and drug discovery.

Clinic by 2024

Through its relationship with UPMC, the company has access to human tumor samples representing more than a dozen solid tumor types across various stages of disease and treatment for single-cell level analysis of gene expression profiles. This differentiated approach enables Novasenta’s discovery of novel druggable targets and development of therapeutics.  

“With our significant series A funding, Novasenta expects to move at least one of our three nominated programs into the clinic by 2024, with the potential to transform care for patients with solid tumors,” said Mani Mohindru, Novasenta’s CEO.

“Our partnership with UPMC and UPMC Enterprises, especially in these challenging times, is just one of many advantages driving the growth of Novasenta,” said Mohindru. 

“Our unique target discovery and validation platform, access to patient tumor samples and the expertise of our founders are critical advantages as we strive to bring life-saving therapies to market.” 

She noted that the company has expanded its senior management team in the past 12 months, attracting leaders with proven industry expertise and drug development success.  

‘Revolutionizing cancer care’

“Immunotherapies like checkpoint inhibitors and CAR T-cell therapies have revolutionized cancer care and improved patient outcomes,” said co-founder Ferris, who is also director of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and Hillman Professor of Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh. 

“Unfortunately, these leading-edge treatments work for only a small subset of patients, leaving a vast, unmet need for effective therapies. With our team’s unusual ability to understand the complex interactions between specific tumor types and the immune system, Novasenta aims to fill that need, bringing hope to patients who currently have no good treatment options or for whom existing immunotherapies have stopped working.”   

Jeanne Cunicelli, president of UPMC Enterprises, said: “We’re excited to continue our significant support for Novasenta, whose programs promise to produce the next generation of novel immuno-oncology drug candidates that can potentially transform the lives of patients with cancer.” 

Explore other topics: CancerUSA

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