Financing led by GV to focus on lead programs for next-generation oncology cell therapies
Proprietary platform enables installation of pharmacologic operating systems in cell and gene therapy products to provide treating physicians with precise and dynamic control of engineered cells in patients
Cambridge, MA, December 6, 2017 – Obsidian Therapeutics, Inc., a biotechnology company dedicated to the development of next-generation cell and gene therapies with pharmacologic operating systems, today announced the completion of a $49.5 million Series A financing to further build its technology platform and advance its lead programs toward clinical development. Obsidian was founded in 2015 by Atlas Venture, who exclusively funded the company’s operations through mid-2017. The Series A financing was led by GV, with participation from Atlas Venture, as well as Takeda Ventures Inc., Vertex Ventures HC, Amgen Ventures, Alexandria Venture Investments, and ShangPharma Investment Group. The company has also named serial entrepreneur and biotechnology executive Michael Gilman, Ph.D., as Chief Executive Officer.
Obsidian has developed a suite of platform technologies that allow for exquisite control of protein activity in cells, thereby enabling tunable cell and gene therapies. The technological foundation of Obsidian’s approach is the use of destabilizing domains (DD), pioneered by Obsidian’s scientific founder, Professor Thomas Wandless, a leading researcher in chemical and systems biology. The system is composed of two parts – a synthetic biological cassette that is installed in the gene vector and a small-molecule drug that controls the activity of the cassette. Obsidian’s cassettes are controllable with readily-available, non-immunosuppressive, FDA-approved small-molecule medicines.
“While existing cell therapies in oncology have shown substantial efficacy, the range of applications is still narrow, and significant toxicities limit broader adoption,” said Dr. Gilman. “By equipping cells with new tumor-fighting powers, and by putting precise and dynamic dosing control in the hands of the treating physician, we believe we can improve safety, efficacy, and durability of CAR-T therapies. Moreover, we think Obsidian’s pharmacologic operating systems will enable us to build entirely new classes of living medicines.”
Obsidian’s initial areas of drug development include regulated cytokine cassettes for inclusion in CAR-T products to enhance anti-tumor activity and cellular persistence, as well as regulated CAR for enhancement of safety and anti-tumor efficacy. In these areas of focus, using DD technology enables control of key functions to improve safety and efficacy in ways that are not possible with existing CAR-T treatments. Future applications of Obsidian’s DD platform will advance novel cell and gene therapy approaches for cancer and other diseases.
“The need for pharmacologic regulation in CAR-T is acute,” said Peter Barrett, Ph.D., Partner at Atlas Venture and Chairman of the Obsidian Board of Directors. “We founded Obsidian to enable a new generation of cell therapies equipped with regulated cytokines, receptors, and transcription factors to give physicians and patients exquisite control over these powerful therapies.”
Obsidian has licensed technology relating to DDs from Stanford University and has recently launched a research collaboration with Crystal Mackall, M.D., of the Stanford School of Medicine, focusing on the use of DDs to regulate CAR activity in CAR-T products.
Experienced Management and Board of Directors
The company has assembled a strong scientific team, along with industry veterans with established track records of success:
- Michael Gilman, Ph.D., CEO of Obsidian Therapeutics, CEO of Arrakis Therapeutics, former founding CEO of Padlock Therapeutics and Stromedix, with executive roles at Biogen and ARIAD Pharmaceuticals
- Tariq Kassum, M.D., Senior Vice President, Head of Business Operations, and company cofounder, former leadership roles at Takeda and Millennium Pharmaceuticals
- Steve Shamah, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Head of Research, former leadership roles at Juno Therapeutics and X-Body Biosciences
- Vipin Suri, Ph.D., Vice President, Head of Discovery, and company cofounder, former roles at Raze Therapeutics and GSK
- Celeste Richardson, Ph.D., Vice President, Cell Therapy, former roles at Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research
The company’s Board of Directors includes:
- Peter Barrett, Ph.D., Partner at Atlas Venture
- Karen Hong, Ph.D., Senior Investment Director at Takeda Ventures, Inc.
- Carolyn Ng, Ph.D., Principal, Vertex Ventures HC
- Jason Gardner, Ph.D., CEO of Magenta Therapeutics
- Michael Gilman, Ph.D., CEO of Obsidian Therapeutics
Observers on the Board of Directors are Blake Byers, Ph.D., General Partner at GV; Michael Gladstone, Principal at Atlas Venture; and Gladys Nunez, M.Sc., Principal, Amgen Ventures.
Blake Byers, Ph.D., of GV, said, “Obsidian is working to expand the number of cell therapy addressable patients by developing best-in-class exogenous regulatory systems.”
About Destabilizing Domains
Obsidian uses Destabilizing Domains (DDs) to enable pharmacologic regulation of protein activity for next-generation cell and gene therapies. Obsidian’s DDs are small, fully-human protein domains that confer conditional stability to a fused payload protein. In the absence of a specific small molecule ligand the fusion protein is rapidly degraded, whereas in the presence of the ligand, the fusion protein becomes stable and functional. Obsidian uses this approach to equip engineered cells with controllable functions that can be precisely tuned by the administration of non-immunosuppressive, small molecule medicines that are readily available and dispensed by the treating physician.
About Obsidian Therapeutics
Obsidian Therapeutics is a biotechnology company developing next-generation cell and gene therapies with pharmacologic operating systems. Based upon founding work on destabilizing domains by Professor Thomas Wandless, a leading researcher in chemical and systems biology, Obsidian’s lead programs are CAR-T products that incorporate controllable functions for enhanced safety and efficacy. Obsidian was founded in 2015 by Atlas Venture and is funded by a strong syndicate of venture investors. The company is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Please visit www.obsidiantx.com.
About Atlas Venture
Atlas Venture is a leading biotech venture capital firm. With the goal of doing well by doing good, we have been building breakthrough biotech startups since 1993. We work side by side with exceptional scientists and entrepreneurs to translate high impact science into medicines for patients. Our seed-led venture creation strategy rigorously selects and focuses investment on the most compelling opportunities to build scalable businesses and realize value. For more information, please visit www.atlasventure.com.