Juno Therapeutics wants to wipe out cancer by rewiring the body’s immune system, and it’s receiving some serious investor backing in order to do so.
The Seattle-based startup today announced that it has closed a Series B round of $134 million. On top of a $176 million Series A round the company closed in April, Juno has now raised more than $300 million in less than one year.
The new funding comes from all major previous investors, which include ARCH Venture Partners; the Alaska Permanent Fund; Bezos Expeditions, the personal investment company of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos; and Venrock. Also participating in the Series B round are ten public mutual funds and healthcare-related funds.
“Juno continues to make significant progress in developing new therapies with the potential to radically change the outlook for patients battling cancer,” CEO Hans Bishop said in a statement. “We are delighted by the vote of confidence coming from new Series B investors and founding investors alike. Our funding puts us in a strong position to move forward with multiple CAR-T and TCR therapies and invest in the science that will support continued innovation with these game-changing technologies.”
Juno, which launched this past December, is a unique collaboration spun out of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Aimed at patients with advanced disease who have not had success with chemotherapy, radiation and transplants, Juno takes an individuals T-cells, which fight infection as well as cancers, out of their body.
From there, genetic engineering is used to make the T-cell recognize the cancer that’s specific to that person. Then, the T-cell goes back into the body and it can recognize a tumor, hopefully killing it.
“It’s very personalized therapy,” Dr. Larry Corey, Juno advisor and president of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, said in December.
Dr. Michael Jensen, a founding scientist of Juno, offered a computer comparison to help understand the science.
“The T-cells are the hardware of the immune system,” he explained. “We are a bit like software engineers. We create apps for T-cells to make them do something they couldn’t naturally do.”
Here’s Juno founding scientist Dr. Phil Greenberg explaining the science behind Juno’s therapies and showing us some of the work being done inside Juno’s labs back in December: