Fidelity Biosciences and Atlas Venture, with participation from Sanofi-Genzyme BioVentures, have launched Unum Therapeutics, a company developing cellular immunotherapy to treat cancer. Fidelity Biosciences invests venture capital in biopharmaceutical, medical technology, healthcare information technology and healthcare service companies, while Atlas Venture is an early-stage investor. All three are based in Cambridge, Mass.
Unum has built a platform for cancer treatment based upon an antibody-coupled T-cell receptor (ACTR). Genetically programming T-cells with ACTR allows them to efficiently attack and kill tumor cells using targeting antibodies. In contrast to other approaches that are limited to a single target and treat a narrow set of tumors, Unum's approach is not restricted by antigen and may have applications for treating many types of cancers.
Charles "Chuck" Wilson, Ph.D., will be president and CEO. Before founding Unum, Wilson led the team responsible for partnering to support research and early development at Novartis. He brings extensive experience to Unum spanning from early drug discovery through phase II clinical development.
Dario Campana, M.D., Ph.D., is the company's scientific founder. Campana is a leader in cancer cell therapies. At the National University of Singapore (NUS), he developed the ACTR technology that forms the basis for Unum. At St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., he created a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) approach that currently is being pursued by several pharma and biotech companies. He currently oversees a number of cell therapy clinical trials in oncology.
In addition to Wilson and Campana, Unum Therapeutics' management team also includes chief scientific officer Seth Ettenberg, Ph.D., a cancer biologist and drug development scientist with extensive experience leading teams in biotechnology and large pharmaceutical drug discovery settings. Ettenberg most recently was the Cambridge site head for Novartis Oncology Biotherapeutics.
The initial board of directors for Unum Therapeutics includes Wilson; Ben Auspitz, partner, Fidelity Biosciences; and Bruce Booth, DPhil, partner, Atlas Venture.