Proceeds will support development of antibody drugs and discovery platform targeting pro-tumorigenic factors produced by fibroblasts in the tumor microenvironment, rendering resistant cancers treatable.
Houston, June 3, 2021 – Stellanova Therapeutics, Inc. (“Stellanova”), a biotechnology company advancing cancer therapies targeting the tumor microenvironment, today announced the closing of a $15.5 million Series A financing led by Sporos Bioventures, LLC. The funds will advance Stellanova’s lead antibody asset to first-in-human clinical trials for oncology, establish its discovery platform, and build its team.
“For patients diagnosed with advanced cancers, aggressive chemotherapies and immune therapies often provide only marginal improvement due to the presence of resistance factors generated by fibroblasts present within the tumor microenvironment,” commented Rosa Hwang, M.D., co-founder of Stellanova. “Our lead antibody targets DKK3, a factor secreted by cancer-associated fibroblasts, and shows robust anti-tumor activity, alone or together with immune therapy, in highly refractory preclinical models of pancreas and triple negative breast cancer.”
Stellanova is focused on targeting the many pro-tumorigenic effects enabled by the activity of carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (known as CAFs) in the tumor microenvironment. CAFs play essential roles in promoting cancer growth and metastasis, spurring angiogenesis, suppressing anti-tumor immunity, and fostering chemoresistance. Stellanova’s lead antibody candidate is designed to neutralize DKK3, a factor secreted by CAFs that acts on neighboring cancer cells and immune cells to promote tumor progression and therapy resistance. In pre-clinical studies, treatment with anti-DKK3 monoclonal antibody and immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy has produced sustained tumor eradication in mouse models of pancreatic cancer which is refractory to current chemo or immune therapies.
Harold Levy, Stellanova and Sporos founder and board member, added, “We are thrilled to bring Stellanova into the Sporos group of companies. Stellanova means ‘new star’, and it is clear the Stellanova team embraces this namesake with their entirely new approach to treating cancer. We have been impressed by Stellanova’s accomplishments and look forward to being involved in the advancement of the company’s platform, one that we believe has the potential to directly combat the most devastating of cancers.”
In conjunction with the Series A financing, Emmanuelle Schuler, Ph.D., MBA, has been appointed founding Chief Executive Officer. Dr. Schuler has been a member of the founding team at several companies, including JLABS @ TMC, where she spearheaded successful site operations and business development, and Corallis Consulting which focuses on improving therapeutic solutions in conjunction with biotech companies in United States and Europe.
Stellanova is a resident company at JLABS @ TMC, a Johnson & Johnson biotech incubator in Houston’s Texas Medical Center.
Dr. Hwang receives compensation as a member of the SAB, and this financial relationship has been disclosed to her institution in accordance with its policy.