The company is focused on developing allogeneic cell therapies for cancer, aiming to overcome the limitations of first-generation approaches.
The funds raised will be used to advance its pre-clinical pipeline, which includes multiple induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived CAR-iT and CAR-iNK cell products; they are designed to resist host rejection, enhance cell persistence, and allow repeat dosing to provide durable responses in all patients.
The financing was led by Casdin Capital and brought together a syndicate of new investors including Fidelity Management & Research, the Federated Hermes Kauffmann Funds, RA Capital, Logos Capital, OrbiMed, Marshall Wace, Qatar Investment Authority, Avidity Partners, and Octagon Capital.
Founding investors, Versant Ventures, alongside Leaps, an investment arm of Bayer, also participated.
"We are fortunate to be surrounded by such a top-tier group of investors, whose support will enable the acceleration of Century's technology platform into the clinic," said Lalo Flores, CEO, Century.
The biotech’s genetically engineered, iPSC-derived iNK and iT cell products are designed to specifically target hematologic and solid tumor cancers. “Our commitment to developing off-the-shelf cell therapies will expand patient access and provides an unparalleled opportunity to advance the course of cancer care.”
The team anticipates beginning clinical testing of its first products in 2022.
"It's a remarkable and transformative time in the field, with the ability to engineer cells for therapeutic impact now a commercial reality. At the same time, iPSC technology has matured and is now leading the transition from bespoke autologous products to off-the-shelf allogeneic ones,” commented Eli Casdin, CIO, Casdin Capital.
Century was created by Versant Ventures in 2018 as part of the firm’s core strategy to launch innovative biotech companies, with it believing that allogeneic reagents represented the next wave of innovation in cell therapy; later that year, Century formed a strategic partnership with Fujifilm Cellular Dynamics Inc (FCDI). In July 2019, it received US$250m in financing commitments from Bayer, Versant and FCDI.
Adding in-house manufacturing capabilities
Last month saw Century announce a significant expansion of its operational and laboratory space in Philadelphia. It also said progress had been made on its manufacturing facility in Branchburg, New Jersey, with it intending the plant to be operational later this year, paving the way for a strong technical foundation as it scales up its in-house research and development capabilities.
"Adding in-house manufacturing capabilities will enable us to generate our pipeline with homogenous products that can be manufactured and scaled in a cost-effective manner," said Flores. "It is a critical step in our strategic plan to accelerate product iteration, provide additional optionality and de-risk technical execution."
In addition to the Pennsylvania and New Jersey locations, Century has a laboratory in Hamilton, Ontario specifically focused on targeting glioblastoma, and recently opened a Seattle-based innovation hub to help advance the company's novel iPSC platform.