BMS joins $75m funding round for French biotech developing pipeline of stem cell-derived cell therapies
The financing round was led by Bpifrance Large Venture, and it was joined by US investment firm, Leonard Green & Partners, pharma giant, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), and European venture capital team, XAnge.
In conjunction with the financing, independent board member Frederic Desdouits, PhD, has been appointed CEO of TreeFrog Therapeutics, while co-founder, Kevin Alessandri, PhD, will relocate in early 2022 to Boston, to lead a newly created US subsidiary.
Through overcoming current critical manufacturing issues, the privately held Bordeaux-based company is looking to ensure more patients can access cell therapies through mass production.
Founded in 2018, TreeFrog Therapeutics was one of the winners of the 2020 Galien Medstartup Awards, which recognize Franco-American collaborations in the fields of biotech, pharma, medical technologies, and digital health. The biotech has developed C-Stem, a technology platform providing an end to end 3D scalable solution that is designed to dramatically reduce treatment costs.
“C-Stem offers unprecedented scale and quality, enabling the exponential growth of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) and their differentiation into ready-to-transplant microtissues in industrial bioreactors,” according to the startup.
Desdouits, the biotech's newly appointed CEO, said the Series B financing allows TreeFrog Therapeutics to dramatically increase tis capacities and investments in R&D, to consolidate a pipeline of iPS-derived cell therapies targeting neurodegeneration, cardiac and metabolic disorders, as well as blood and immune-related diseases.
“Through therapeutic and technological partnerships, we intend to drive the adoption of C-Stem by top biopharmaceutical players, so that we can bring the benefits of the technology, in terms of safety, efficacy and cost, to as many patients as possible."
The capital will also help finance the opening of tech hubs in the US and in Japan.
The company reported that preliminary results, recently presented at the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy and International Society for Stem Cell Research annual meetings, suggest C-Stem is the only technology capable of maintaining genomic integrity through large-scale hiPSC expansion.
Based on preclinical results in Parkinson’s disease, the biotech said it is now preparing for a first-in-human trial in 2024; it intends to expand its pipeline of cell therapies through in-house programs and partnerships.
“We are now supported by investors with several billion dollars under management, as well as by a top-ten pharmaceutical company that successfully pioneered CAR-T cell therapies,” said Alessandri. “In short, funding, management and governance are now secured, as we embark on a very exciting journey, with the deployment of technological hubs in Kobe, Japan, and Boston, MA, and the prospect of treating our first patients in 2024.”
As part of the Series B financing, Laurent Higueret, from Bpifrance Large Venture, and Peter Zippelius, from Leonard Green & Partners, will join the board, while Girish Pendse from BMS will join the board as observer.