Focusing on neoantigens, Neon Therapeutics launches with a $55M Series A

Fresh off of a $55 million Series A financing round, Neon Therapeutics jumped into the cancer vaccines space today with the aim of utilizing neoantigen biology to unlock a powerful immune response against the disease.

On an interim basis, Neon will be led by Third Rock Ventures veterans Cary Pfeffer and Robert Tepper as it looks to develop lead program NEO-PV-01, a personalized neoantigen vaccine developed in collaboration between the Broad Institute and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Based in Cambridge, MA, the company will endeavor to target both patient-specific and shared neoantigens--which result from mutations during tumor growth--and to build a product engine capable of taking advantage of their tumor-fighting potential

Cary Pfeffer

Pfeffer, a former interim CEO of Jounce Therapeutics and current board member of numerous other biotechs, said Neon is launching at a "point that is unprecedented in the history of cancer drug development," adding that new insights "enable Neon Therapeutics to develop therapies that are complementary to current immunomodulatory therapies and may significantly enhance the specificity and potency of existing approaches."

Though cancer vaccines have seen their fair share of troubles--evidenced by the bankruptcy of Provenge-maker Dendreon and other late-stage failures by Merck KGaA and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK)--the field has seen a resurgence of enthusiasm of late as other candidates make their way through development and vaccine makers sign partnership deals with potentially large payoffs.

Last month, AstraZeneca's ($AZN) MedImmune signed a deal worth up to $727 million to get its hands on Inovio's ($INO) HPV cancer vaccine and to develop additional candidates. And, in the $1 billion range, Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Aduro hitched up in an October to work with Aduro's ($ADRO) GVAX--potentially worth more than $1B--and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) teamed with Bavarian Nordic to work with Prostvac, wagering up to $1 billion.

Joining Third Rock Ventures in the financing for Neon Therapeutics were Clal Biotechnology Industries and Access Industries.

- here's the release

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