PITTSBURGH, July 29, 2022 – Novasenta Inc., a startup biotechnology company focused on the discovery and validation of novel targets to develop cancer therapies, today announced the completion of $40 million in Series A financing led by UPMC Enterprises, the innovation, venture capital and commercialization arm of leading health system UPMC. The funding will allow Novasenta to advance its pipeline of antibody-based therapeutics and expand its proprietary computational platforms for target discovery, while continuing to recruit top talent.
Novasenta comprehensively maps the tumor microenvironment — the network of cells and structures that surround and interact with tumor cells inside the body — to develop immunotherapies that enable the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Co-founded in late 2018 by Robert Ferris, M.D., Ph.D., Dario Vignali, Ph.D., and Greg Delgoffe, Ph.D., all of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and the University of Pittsburgh, Novasenta is building on decades of research in the fields of tumor biology, immunology, computational biology and drug discovery.
Through its relationship with UPMC, the company has access to high-quality human tumor samples representing more than a dozen solid tumor types across various stages of disease and treatment for single-cell level analysis of gene expression profiles. This differentiated approach enables Novasenta’s discovery of novel druggable targets and development of therapeutics.
“With our significant Series A funding, Novasenta expects to move at least one of our three nominated programs into the clinic by 2024, with the potential to transform care for patients with solid tumors,” said Mani Mohindru, Ph.D., Novasenta’s chief executive officer and a veteran biotechnology leader.
“Our partnership with UPMC and UPMC Enterprises, especially in these challenging times, is just one of many advantages driving the growth of Novasenta,” said Mohindru. “Our unique target discovery and validation platform, access to patient tumor samples and the expertise of our founders are critical advantages as we strive to bring life-saving therapies to market.” She noted that the company has expanded its senior management team in the past 12 months, attracting leaders with proven industry expertise and drug development success.
“Immunotherapies like checkpoint inhibitors and CAR T-cell therapies have revolutionized cancer care and improved patient outcomes,” said co-founder Ferris, who is also director of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and Hillman Professor of Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh. “Unfortunately, these leading-edge treatments work for only a small subset of patients, leaving a vast, unmet need for effective therapies. With our team’s unusual ability to understand the complex interactions between specific tumor types and the immune system, Novasenta aims to fill that need, bringing hope to patients who currently have no good treatment options or for whom existing immunotherapies have stopped working.”
Jeanne Cunicelli, president of UPMC Enterprises, added: “We’re excited to continue our significant support for Novasenta, whose programs promise to produce the next generation of novel immuno-oncology drug candidates that can potentially transform the lives of patients with cancer.”
Part of $24 billion health care provider and insurer UPMC, based in Pittsburgh, UPMC Enterprises is focused on two key areas: translational sciences and digital solutions. It provides its portfolio companies and partners with capital, connections and resources to develop solutions to health care’s most complex problems.
Working in close collaboration with innovators from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, as well as others worldwide, UPMC Enterprises strives to accelerate science from the bench to the bedside and has committed to investing $1 billion in novel drugs, diagnostics and devices by 2024.
About Novasenta, Inc.
Founded in 2018, Novasenta is focused on the discovery of novel therapeutic targets to develop innovative and effective treatments with the goal of transforming the lives of patients with cancer. The company has developed a proprietary platform for single-cell RNA based analysis of high-quality, human tumor samples and combined it with its advanced data mining and target validating abilities to accelerate the path from discovery to drug development. The company’s pipeline includes three programs representing the next generation of immuno-oncology targets and drug candidates.