Quentis Nets $48M For Cancer Drugs, Building Buzz For NY Bio Startups

Xconomy New York — 

After a string of announcements a few years back, there’s been few new, high-profile biotech startups taking shape in New York. But that quiet period might be coming to an end this morning with the arrival of Quentis Therapeutics, a cancer immunotherapy startup born from the lab of former Weill Cornell Medicine dean and immunologist Laurie Glimcher. The company makes its debut today with a $48 million Series A round.

Quentis has been incubating for a few years within Highline Therapeutics, the New York biotech creator Versant Ventures formed in late 2015. Versant is one of the venture firms to plant a flag in New York amidst the city’s multi-year push to spur on its life sciences industry and compete with more established biotech hubs elsewhere. Since its inception, Highline has formed three companies, though only two of them—Kyras Therapeutics and now Quentis—are based in New York, according to Versant partner Carlo Rizzuto.

Since late 2016, city and state governments have committed more than $1 billion to growing New York’s biotech industry. Several startup incubators have sprouted up, or soon will, and startup creators like Versant, Accelerator Corp., and Flagship Ventures (which, along with Arch Venture Partners, co-manages a still-unused $150 million biotech fund from the New York City Economic Development Corp.) have arrived.

This effort—which will likely take decades—is still early. New York has nowhere near the number of high-profile biotech startups that Boston and San Francisco regularly churn out. Kallyope, Petra Pharma, and Lodo Therapeutics came along in quick succession in late-2015 and early 2016 and raised $109 million combined in separate Series A rounds. Since then though, similar announcements have been few and far between. As Erik Lium, the senior vice president of Mount Sinai Innovation Partners said at an Xconomy event in December, the area needs “a number of really noteworthy, breakthrough startup companies” to generate bigger buzz.

Some momentum has gathered over the past month. The NYCEDC put up $100 million to draw outside investors in to help develop a biotech campus. Roche bought Flatiron Health, a New York life sciences/tech hybrid company that amasses data on cancer patients, for $1.9 billion. Kallyope last week reloaded with a $66 million financing, one of the largest for a privately held New York drug developer in years. And now here comes Quentis.

“You’re going to see more [companies],” says Quentis CEO Michael Aberman. “Science, like everything else, comes in fits and starts.”

Aberman has long been on the New York life sciences scene. Formerly a biotech analyst at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse, he ran investor relations for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: REGN) for seven years before stepping down in June to run Quentis. Citing the influx of investors to New York and progress made building lab space, he decided to leave New York’s preeminent biotech for a startup. “I do feel like there’s this community growing,” Aberman says.

Quentis’s scientific founders are Glimcher, who now runs the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and two former post-docs from Glimcher’s lab: Juan Cubillos-Ruiz and Sarah Bettigole. The company’s work comes from new insights into … Next Page »

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