Igenica Pulls in $33M to Fight Cancer With Antibodies

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Targeted antibody drugs are in the news on an almost daily basis, and Burlingame, CA-based Igenica is benefiting from the surge of progress.

The startup antibody drug developer said today it has raised $33 million in a Series C venture financing. New investor Third Rock Ventures led the round, which included existing investors The Column Group, Orbimed Advisors, and 5AM Ventures. Igenica, founded in January 2009, said it has now raised $55 million since its beginning.

Igenica’s statement about the financing doesn’t say much about what’s special in its technology sauce. In broad terms, it says it has a unique method for discovering molecular targets on cells, and antibodies that bind specifically with them. While there is a pig pile of biotech companies going after molecular targets like VEGF, c-MET, the PI3 kinase pathway, and more, Igenica said it is going after novel targets for the treatment of cancer.

The market for antibody drugs, which are designed to zero in specifically on certain targets while mostly sparing healthy tissues, has been booming for years now. The global market is expected to grow from $43 billion in sales in 2010 to about $58 billion in 2016, according to MarketResearch.com. Genentech recently made news with its FDA approval of a new antibody for breast cancer called pertuzumab (Perjeta). The South San Francisco-based unit of Roche, the world’s largest cancer drugmaker, is also preparing to seek FDA clearance of another antibody, T-DM1, which is blazing a new trail with antibodies that areengineered to deliver toxic payloads to cancer cells.

Dave Goeddel, Igenica's executive chairman

Third Rock has made some other significant investments in antibody companies around the Bay Area, including Ablexis and CytomX Therapeutics. Dave Goeddel, the first scientist hired at Genentech and the co-founder of Tularik, is serving as Igenica’s executive chairman.

“We are pleased to have Third Rock Ventures, a premier life sciences venture capital firm, lead Igenica’s Series C round,” Goeddel said in a statement. “Third Rock’s investment highlights the broad potential of Igenica’s antibody technology and provides strategic flexibility as we execute our operating and business plans. Moreover, we are now advancing a product candidate toward the clinic that has the potential to improve treatment outcomes for cancer patients.”