MONTREAL, QC, September 11, 2017 SpecificiT Pharma Inc., a privately held Montreal-based biopharmaceutical company focused on developing innovative personalized hematological cancer immunotherapies, is pleased to announce the completion of a seed financing by existing shareholder AmorChem, along with new partners, Sanderling Ventures and Accel-Rx Health Sciences Accelerator. The proceeds of the transaction will be used to complete key activities with respect to manufacturing, process development and the addition of key management. Pierre Beauparlant, Ph.D., Venture Partner at Sanderling Ventures, will assume the role of Chief Executive Officer of the company.
SpecificiT is developing cellular therapies for hematological cancers which to date, cannot be treated with Chimeric Receptor Antigen of T cells (CAR-T) therapies. SpecificiT’s unique approach is centered on the use of Minor Histocompatability Antigens (“MiHAs”) which enable donor T-cells to be safely directed to eliminate cancer cells following allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (AHCT). The identification of these antigens, the elucidation of their potential use and their translation into the clinical is the result of the collaborative work of Dr. Claude Perreault, Dr. Denis-Claude Roy, Dr. Jean-Sébastien Delisle, Dr. Pierre Thibault and their respective teams at the Université de Montréal’s Institut de recherche en immunologie et en cancérologie and at the Centre intégré universitaire en santé et en services sociaux de l’Est-de-l’Ile-de-Montréal. It is the culmination of many years of research which benefited from the support of a large-scale Genome Canada grant. SpecificiT is currently conducting a multi-centre Phase I study to measure the safety and efficacy of donor T-lymphocytes expanded following exposure to individually selected immunogenic and proprietary MiHAs present on the surface of patient malignant cells.
“We welcome our new partners, Sanderling Ventures and Accel-Rx,” says Inès Holzbaur, Ph.D., General Partner at AmorChem. “Their steadfast support has been much appreciated over the past months and their investment is a tribute to the quality of the work executed by the research team we first financed in 2013.”
“SpecificiT has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of very aggressive hematological cancers with a truly innovative and individualized approach. At Sanderling, we believe that Precision Medicine represents a significant opportunity to develop better medicines for patients who, up until now, had very limited options,” said Dr. Pierre Beauparlant. He added, “I am excited to join a dynamic team of international leaders in immune-oncology to develop much needed solutions for patients.”
The therapy will first be used in patients with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Current treatment for AML consists of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation which is limited by a high rate of graft versus host disease (GVHD) in which the donor T cells exert an immunological response, creating severe side effects in approximately 50% of patients. SpecificiT’s therapy is expected to improve efficacy, decrease costs by eliminating GVHD, and expand the number of patients that could be eligible for the treatment.
“We are excited to be investing in this innovative and promising technology,” said Natalie Dakers, President and CEO of Accel-Rx. “We look forward to supporting SpecificiT as they move through this critical stage of development and helping them achieve their upcoming milestones.”
“With the support of our institutions, IRICoR and our funders, we have developed a repertoire of MiHAs that enables immunotherapy of the vast majority of blood cancers and overcomes any limitations linked to intratumoral heterogeneity”, says Dr. Claude Perreault. “Working with SpecificiT, we look forward to enabling more patients to benefit from our discoveries.”
“We are pleased to see that our investment model is successfully building attractive companies from the fruits of academic research”, says Elizabeth Douville, Ph.D., General Partner at AmorChem. “We have been believers in immunotherapy for many years and are pleased to see the field’s expansion benefit SpecificiT.”
About Sanderling Ventures
Sanderling Ventures is one of the oldest investment firms dedicated to building new biomedical companies. Sanderling emphasizes early-stage financing and active management of its portfolio companies. Its principals play an active role in new ventures by providing seed and early-stage funding, contributing management leadership and administrative support, developing cost-control strategies to extend available dollars, supplying technical and regulatory expertise where needed, and offering the insight and perspective of those who have “done it before.”
AmorChem L.P. (www.amorchem.com) is a venture capital fund located in Montreal focused on creating promising life science companies from projects originating primarily from Quebec-based universities and research centres. Its principal limited partners are Investissement Québec, FIER Partenaires, Fonds de solidarité FTQ and Merck & Co. AmorChem’s innovative business model involves financing and actively managing research-stage projects to enable them to reach a stage where they can attract new financial or pharma partners. In order to add value to the projects involving small molecules, AmorChem created NuChem Therapeutics inc., a medicinal chemistry service provider.
AmorChem I has built a 24-project portfolio across innovative technologies and covering a large breadth of indications. To date, two projects have been the subject of successful transactions with pharma, most notably the sale of a cystic fibrosis project to Vertex Pharmaceuticals. In addition, five spin-off companies have been created recently: SemaThera Inc., Corbin Therapeutics Inc., Mperia Therapeutics Inc., SpecificiT Pharma Inc. and Eosinate Therapeutics Inc.