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Invenra, Madison Firm Developing Therapeutic Antibodies, Adds $7.1M

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Invenra, a Madison, WI-based startup that develops therapeutic antibodies for pharmaceutical companies and other clients, has raised more than $7.1 million from investors, according to a regulatory filing.

Twenty-three investors participated in the equity funding round, according to the filing, which was made public earlier this week. Founded in 2011, Invenra has now raised more than $21 million in equity and debt financing, according to SEC documents.

Invenra plans to use some of the new money for product development, and to add to its 26-person team, says co-founder and CEO Roland Green. Invenra plans to hire bench scientists, project managers, and people with preclinical development experience, he says. The startup also plans to expand its laboratory and office space, Green says.

Madison-based Venture Investors led the round, according to a news release. Other participants included return backer Wisconsin Investment Partners and a new investor, the State of Wisconsin Investment Board, which manages more than $117 billion for organizations like the Wisconsin Retirement System.

Invenra’s core business involves discovering antibodies and performing related biology work around targets the startup’s partners have identified. Invenra’s partners are then responsible for taking the drugs forward into the clinic. They include AgonOx, Exelixis (NASDAQ: EXEL), Merck (NYSE: MRK), and Oxford BioTherapeutics.

A majority of the collaborations Invenra has publicized focus at least in part on developing new cancer therapies. However, Invenra’s technology could also be used to make antibodies for targets known to cause infectious disease, autoimmune disease, and other conditions, company leaders have said.

The antibodies Invenra develops are designed to stick to a specific target—a disease-causing protein, for instance—and then perform functions on the targets. Invenra concentrates on antibodies for immuno-oncology that are multi-specific, meaning they can bind to more than one antigen simultaneously.

According to Invenra’s website, the only therapeutic candidate currently in its pipeline that has advanced into the preclinical phase of development—past the discovery and “lead selection” phases—is one being advanced with Exelixis.

Invenra also has its own internal pipeline of antibodies designed to bind to targets the company has identified itself. Green has said his company would eventually find a partner to further develop its own internally discovered drug candidates if they progress as hoped.