Bayer invests $215m as Century advances cell therapy programs
The company is focused on developing allogeneic immune cell therapies for cancer and was founded by Versant Ventures, alongside a partnership with Fujifilm Cellular Dynamics (FCDI). The two companies, alongside Bayer, have contributed $250m (€221.22) in financing to the biotech, which came out of stealth mode on the announcement of funding.
Century will utilize the investment to advance multiple programs for hematologic and solid malignancies into the clinic. FCDI, a subsidiary of Fujifilm and strategic partner of Century, will be the primary manufacturer of Century’s cellular products.
Through its partnership with FCDI, Century has exclusive access to the company’s immune effector cell differentiation protocols and its intellectual property to manufacture cells at good manufacturing practice (GMP) grade for commercial scale.
Its programs are created around its foundational technology, built on pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) that have the capacity for self-renewal. The technology allows multiple rounds of cellular engineering to produce master cell banks and modified cells, which can be expanded and differentiated into immune effector cells. These cells supply allogeneic, homogeneous therapeutic products and develop cell therapies not made from non-renewable donor-derived cells.
“Not only could this approach allow for the repair and replacement of damaged tissues by regenerative new cells, but it also could be potentially useful for treating and curing cancer using immune effectors like T and natural cells,” Juergen Eckhardt, head of Leaps, an investment arm of Bayer, explained.
Leaps led the financing round with a $215m investment, which Eckhardt said is the largest investment by the company to date in the iPSC field.
The investment arm has previously made substantial investments in the iPSC field. in 2016, Leaps provided $200m in a joint effort with Versant to launch BlueRock Therapeutics and, in April 2019, collaborated with Khloris Biosciences for the discovery of iPSC-based anti-cancer vaccines.