Seattle startup Nohla Therapeutics has raised another huge funding round as it moves its novel leukemia treatment closer to being approved by the FDA.
The company added $45 million in equity funding Tuesday, bringing its total funding since spinning out of Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to $100 million. Nohla is developing a novel stem cell treatment for leukemia that uses cells from donated umbilical cord blood. It could be more effective than traditional bone marrow transplants.
Investors in the round included two new names: Fidelity Management and Research Company, the investment arm of financial corporation Fidelity, and biotech giant Celgene.
Celgene recently acquired another Fred Hutch spinout working on cell-based cancer treatments — Juno Therapeutics — for $9 billion and has been increasing its presence in the Seattle region.
The round also included past investors ARCH Venture Partners, 5AM Ventures, Alexandria Venture Investments and AML Biotech Partners.
“The financing announced today allows us to build on the progress we are making in advancing our lead clinical product, dilanubicel, toward potential regulatory approvals in multiple regions,” Nohla CEO Katie Fanning said in a press release. “The additional funding will also fuel further research of our other off-the-shelf discovery programs in support of our mission to provide meaningful therapies to patients with significant unmet needs.”
In addition to the funding, the company recently moved to a new headquarters just down the street from Fred Hutch in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood, a spokesperson said. The company has also more than doubled its employee count since the end of 2016 — it now employs 43, up from 19.
Nohla’s flagship product, dilanubicel, is currently in the second of three clinical trial phases that the FDA requires before it will consider new treatments for approval to go to market. It is an umbilical cord blood treatment for leukemia that uses the same basic technology as a more traditional bone marrow transplant, but it has several advantages.
Instead of requiring a donor that is a close biological match to the patient, cord blood transplants are much more universal and can be administered off-the-shelf. They can also be more effective in the long run, although patients tend to have a more immediate risk of developing a deadly infection, something Nohla is working to counter.
The treatment is based on the work of Nohla Founder and Chief Science Officer Colleen Delaney, who developed the science behind it as a researcher at Fred Hutch.