The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Fred Hutch) and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), along with pediatric partner Seattle Children’s Research Institute, have joined forces to launch Juno Therapeutics, a new biotechnology company focused on bringing forward novel immunotherapies for cancer.
Juno is being launched with an initial investment of $120 million, making it one of the largest Series A biotech startups in history. Initial investors include technology venture capital firm ARCH Venture Partners and the Alaska Permanent Fund, through a partnership managed by Crestline Investors. Hans Bishop, a biotech industry veteran, will lead the company as CEO.
“The longtime research investment that centers like the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Memorial Sloan-Kettering have had in tumor immunology has allowed us to progress to where we feel we can genetically engineer smart T cells to eradicate malignant cancer cells and provide meaningful clinical remissions,” said Larry Corey, M.D., president and director of Fred Hutch, an independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle. “Joining together allows us to bring some of the world’s most accomplished immunotherapy researchers to catalyze this field.”
"Based on the significant anti-tumor activity seen with this T-cell engineering technology, we are pursuing an aggressive and comprehensive clinical development plan to accelerate achievement of regulatory requirements and make this therapy available to cancer patients in the shortest period of time possible," said José Baselga, M.D., Ph.D., physician-in-chief at MSKCC, the world’s oldest and largest private cancer center, operating for more than 125 years, and one of 41 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers.
“The initial data from the clinical trials conducted by the scientific founders to date point toward the strong potential for this team to bring forward a broad pipeline of immunotherapy products that will transform how we treat cancer,” said Robert Nelsen, ARCH co-founder and managing director and Juno co-founder.
“Juno presents a compelling opportunity to partner with a sophisticated management team and group of world-class research institutions who share our long-term perspective,” added Michael Burns, executive director of Alaska Permanent Fund. “At a time when public financing for clinical development has largely dried up, the private-sector model is critical to allowing ventures like Juno to push the frontiers of research.”
Juno’s approach focuses on harnessing the power of the immune system through the reprogramming of a type of immune cell called T lymphocytes (“T cells”). T cells are part of the body’s natural protective defense system against infection, and Juno’s technology reprograms T cells to recognize cancer cells for a precision immunologic attack. Using synthetic receptors and/or augmented natural antigen receptors, Juno’s T cell reprogramming technologies enable the creation of a powerful anti-tumor immune response built from the patient’s own immune system. This transformative approach has the potential to induce long-term remissions and reduce or eliminate the need for debilitating surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
"The tumor regressions we are seeing across our phase I trials are unprecedented," said Michael Jensen, M.D., director of the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and a scientific co-founder of Juno. "I believe this is a transformative therapeutic platform for patients young and old that has the potential to save lives."
Richard Klausner, M.D., co-founder of Juno and former director of the National Cancer Institute, added, “In more than 30 years of immunotherapy research, this is the most exciting data I’ve seen—a complete molecular response in clinical trial patients.”
Juno’s partner organizations and founding scientists:
“Juno brings together renowned scientists and exceptional investment partners to launch and quickly scale an enterprise that will deliver cutting-edge cancer immunotherapy,” said Juno CEO Hans Bishop. “It is a completely unique opportunity that holds the potential to truly save lives while transforming how we treat cancer.”