2022-09-15| Funding

Big Pharma-Backed Capstan Launches With $165 Million To Combine Cell Therapy And mRNA Technology

by Joy Lin
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Capstan Therapeutics has launched with $165 million to wed cell therapy with precision in vivo genetic engineering and bring improved medicines to patients. The new company is backed by a number of big names in biopharma, including Pfizer, Bayer, and Eli Lilly. 

Capstan’s funding includes a $102 million Series A financing round led by Pfizer Ventures and joined by Leaps by Bayer, Eli Lilly, Bristol Myers Squibb, Polaris Partners, Alexandria Venture Investors, and all existing ventures. The Series A follows a $63 million seed financing round led by Novartis Venture Fund and OrbiMed and joined by RA Capital and Vida Ventures in November 2021. 

The new company will operate in San Diego, California, and Philadelphia, PA. 

Precision In Vivo Engineering

Capstan aims to improve cell-based therapies by enabling precise engineering within living organisms, with payloads targeting multiple disease categories. Its arsenal includes targeted lipid nanoparticles (tLNP) technology, molecular fragments mediating cell-type-specific uptake, and mRNA payloads targeting pathogenic cells in vivo-generated CAR T cells. 

Initially, the company will focus on developing in vivo CAR-T therapies with the goal of delivering treatments in an outpatient setting. Separately, Capstan will utilize precision delivery and engineering to advance new therapies for undisclosed monogenic blood disorders.

Related Article: Forge Biologics Raises $90 Million To Expand Gene Therapy CDMO

Capstan’s Leadership

Capstan was founded by several researchers from the University of Pennsylvania who authored two studies establishing preclinical proof-of-concept for non-viral, in vivo CAR-T therapy which Capstan plans to advance towards the clinic. The scientific founders hail from multiple areas of research, including preclinical translation, cell engineering, mRNA and targeted LNP technologies, and immunology and fibrosis. 

Taking Capstan’s top leadership position is Laura Shawyer, Ph.D., who will serve as President and CEO. Dr. Shawyer brings over 20 years of experience in leadership roles in oncology and other diseases and most recently was the CEO of Silverback Therapeutics and Synthorx, both of which have made their exits. 

Capstan’s management team includes industry veterans from cell and gene therapy, including Adrian Bot, MD, Ph.D., formerly Global Head and Vice President of Translational Medicine at Kite (a Gilead Company), and Priya Karmali, Ph.D., who has over 20 years of experience in the field of lipid nanoparticle-mediated nucleic acid delivery technologies.

“Capstan is uniting several recent life science technological advances in a manner that can hopefully unlock the potential of these technologies to develop new medicines for patients across a wider range of diseases,” said Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, Co-Founder of Capstan. 


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