Neogene, a Two River company, was founded in 2018 by a team of world-class cell therapy experts to advance the development of neo-antigen T cell therapies. Carsten Linnemann, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Neogene, and Ton Schumacher, Ph.D., Principal Investigator at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, Oncode Institute and 2020 recipient of the Dutch Research Council’s Stevin Award co-founded the Company with individual investments by cell therapy industry veterans Arie Belldegrun, M.D. FACS, founder of Kite Pharma, Inc. and Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Allogene Therapeutics, Inc. and David Chang, M.D., Ph.D., Co-Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Allogene. Dr. Linnemann and Dr. Schumacher previously co-founded T-Cell Factory B.V., a company acquired by Kite Pharma in 2015.
Dr. Schumacher, an internationally leading immunologist in the areas of neo-antigen biology and T cell engineering, developed the seminal concepts of Neogene’s proprietary technology. Neogene’s platform allows for the isolation of neo-antigen specific TCR genes from tumor biopsies that are routinely obtained from cancer patients during treatment. The tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) obtained by these tumor biopsies frequently express TCRs specific for mutated proteins found in cancer cells (neo-antigens). The Company’s proprietary technology uses state-of-the-art DNA sequencing, DNA synthesis and genetic screening tools to identify such neo-antigen specific T cell receptor genes within tumor biopsies with high sensitivity, specificity and at scale. The isolated TCR genes are subsequently engineered into T cells of cancer patients to provide large numbers of potent T cells for therapy.
“Neogene is committed to forging a path for new fully personalized engineered T cell therapies in solid cancer that are redirected towards neo-antigens found on cancer cells,” said Dr. Linnemann. “While engineered T cell therapies have transformed the treatment paradigm for patients with hematologic malignancies, the industry has struggled to translate this success to the enormous unmet need in patients with advanced solid tumors. We believe that through a fully individualized approach using patient-specific TCRs to target neo-antigens, engineered T cell therapy can become broadly accessible to these patients. We are excited that our vision is shared by an outstanding syndicate of marquee investors, who have a deep understanding of and commitment towards the development of novel cell therapies in oncology.”
“Neo-antigens represent ideal targets for cancer therapy, as they inevitably arise from DNA mutations that enable tumor development in the first place. Further supporting this concept is clear, correlative evidence linking T cell reactivity against neo-antigens with tumor regression in several patients,” said Dr. Schumacher. “The Neogene platform makes it possible to exploit the neo-antigen reactive TCRs that are present in TIL without a requirement for viable tumor material. In addition, its syn-bio based approach offers major advantages with respect to standardization and scalability and will be critical to achieve our goal of bringing personalized engineered T cell therapies to patients.”
In this Series A financing, Neogene expands its distinguished investor base with leading health-care investors from both the U.S. and Europe. For the seed-investors Vida Ventures, TPG and Two River, Neogene marks the second major collaboration in the cell therapy space after the launch of Allogene Therapeutics in 2018. Neogene’s seed-financing in 2019 enabled the Company to achieve proof-of-concept for its neo-antigen technology platform and built on the respective expertise of Vida Ventures, Two River and TPG in the gene and cell therapy space.
“We believe that Neogene’s technology and therapeutic approach has the potential to become a game changer for the treatment of cancer,” said Oleg Nodelman, Founder and Managing Director of EcoR1 Capital. “We are impressed by the bold vision of the management team and are thrilled to support Neogene as it advances its mission of developing novel therapies for cancer patients in need.”
“Neogene’s approach perfectly aligns with Jeito’s mission. Jeito was launched recently to support new and established entrepreneurs aspiring to help patients in need by pioneering novel, ground-breaking medicines underlined by highest quality innovation,” said Rafaèle Tordjman, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Jeito Capital. “We are delighted to welcome Neogene as the first investment into our new portfolio.”
“We are excited to partner with the outstanding Neogene team,” said Martin Murphy, Chief Executive Officer of Syncona. “Neogene’s technology offers a radically innovative approach to utilize the therapeutic potential of TIL cells by employing state-of-the-art TCR engineering and synthetic biology technologies.” Facilitated by the Series A, Neogene intends to further develop its technology with growing offices in Amsterdam and the U.S. with the goal to initiate Phase I clinical studies in 2022.
About Neogene Therapeutics
Neogene Therapeutics, Inc. is a pre-clinical stage biotechnology company pioneering development of next-generation, fully personalized engineered T cells therapies for a broad spectrum of cancers. The Company’s engineered T cells target mutated proteins found in cancer cells due to cancer-associated DNA mutations, or neo-antigens, that render tumor cells vulnerable to detection by T cells. Neogene’s proprietary technology platform aims to identify TCR genes with specificity for neo-antigens from tumor biopsies. Neogene’s novel approach intends to deliver a tailored set of TCR genes for each individual patient, which will be engineered into patient-derived T cells directing them towards neo-antigens in tumor cells, with the goal of providing a fully personalized engineered T cell therapy for cancer.