Story updated with comments from Scholz below.
Seattle biotech startup OncoSenX has reeled in $3 million to advance its pipeline of therapeutics that aim to kill cancer cells based on their genetics.
OncoSenX’s technology targets solid tumors based on a patented lipid nanoparticle gene delivery system and a highly targeted DNA payload. The company claims that its approach is “a less invasive, more precise intervention” of cancer therapy.
OncoSenX is a spinout out of Oisin Biotechnologies, a 5-year-old Seattle company led by veteran biotech entrepreneur Matthew Scholz, who is CEO of OncoSenX. Gary Hudson, a private spaceflight entrepreneur, co-founded Oisin with Scholz and is chairman of OncoSenX.
“These funds will allow us to accelerate the preclinical research necessary for us to begin phase 1 clinical development,” Scholz said in a statement. “We believe our non-viral gene therapy for solid tumors represents the first in a new class of cancer therapeutics.”
John Lewis, chief science officer, said that the platform “has the potential to precisely kill cancer cells based on the mutations they harbor.”
“If substantiated in the clinic, the platform could deliver reduced toxicity and improved tolerability over conventional chemotherapy, with the potential for superior targeting over biologics or even CAR-T therapy,” Lewis said in a statement.
Scholz previously founded and led gene therapy company Immusoft; he departed in January 2018 but remains on the board.
OncoSenX has five employees.
Update: Scholz explained the thinking behind the company’s research and philosophy in an email to GeekWire.
“In very simple/non-technical terms, we’ve built a therapeutic that kills cells based on what they’re ‘thinking,'” he said.
Here’s more from Scholz:
“What is really unique about this approach is that it is pretty much the exact opposite of the traditional pharmaceutical approach to cancer. Typically one would take a poison that kills cells and then try to get that poison to go to the cancerous cells while avoiding the healthy cells. This doesn’t work that well in practice. As anyone who’s ever had chemotherapy, or known someone who has, can attest, there is massive toxicity associated with the poison going to places other than the tumor. In contrast, with our approach, there is no drug, no poison at all – just a little program written in DNA. We’ve effectively taken targeting out of the realm of chemistry and brought it into the realm of information.”