US cancer research centres launch biotech start-up

Juno Therapeutics will have US$120m initial investment and develop cancer immunotherapy products

Three US-based centres for cancer research, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Fred Hutch), the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and paediatric partner Seattle Children's Research Institute, have joined forces to launch Juno Therapeutics, a new biotechnology company focused on developing novel immunotherapies for cancer.

Juno is being launched with an initial investment of US$120m from 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 Juno as Chief Executive.

Commenting on the launch, Larry Corey, President and Director of Fred Hutch, said: 'The longtime research investment that centres like the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Memorial Sloan-Kettering have had in tumour 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. Joining together allows us to bring some of the world's most accomplished immunotherapy researchers to catalyse this field.'

Jose Baselga, Physician-in-Chief at MSKCC, added: 'Based on the significant anti-tumour 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.'

T cells are part of the body's natural protective defence system against infection, and Juno's technology reprogrammes them to recognise 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-tumour immune response built from the patient's own immune system.

'The tumour regressions we are seeing across our Phase I trials at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Fred Hutch and Seattle Children's Research Institute are unprecedented,' said Michael Jensen, Director of the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research at Seattle Children's Research Institute and a scientific co-founder of Juno.

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