WATERTOWN, Mass., May 23, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Larkspur Biosciences, a biotechnology company building the next precision immunotherapies to outsmart cancer, launched today with $35.5 million in combined seed and Series A financing. Larkspur’s approach targets the unique ways that tumors hijack the immune system. Building on the work of Larkspur founders Drs. Lewis Cantley, Nathanael Gray, and Vijay K. Kuchroo, the company is focusing on bottlenecks that tumors use to subvert the immune system in order to develop precision immunotherapies for molecularly defined patient populations. Larkspur’s initial strategy addresses a genetically- and immunologically-characterized subtype of colorectal cancer (CRC). These patients have T cells at the tumor and can be identified via biopsy, making them a prime population for proof-of-concept for the company’s precision immunotherapy strategies.
The financing was led by the Polaris Innovation Fund, 3E Bioventures Capital, and Takeda Ventures, Inc., and included Creacion Ventures, Med-Fine Capital and Cornell University. The financing will enable the company to focus on IND-enabling studies for its lead program, a cutting-edge approach to lipid remodeling to uncloak tumors as well as furthering the ongoing preclinical studies for its first-in-class program targeting Pin1, a key mechanism of fibroblast differentiation to activate immune cells. Larkspur’s discovery platform, LarkX, leverages patient genetics and immune phenotypes to fuel its pipeline and partnerships.
“The development of cancer immunotherapies has transformed the treatment of cancers, and in many cases is now the standard of care. Yet there are many patients who do not respond to, or relapse on, existing immunotherapies,” said Catherine Sabatos-Peyton, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of Larkspur. “Tumors create multiple barriers that can suppress a robust immune response. Larkspur was founded to outsmart these bottlenecks and develop new precision medicines to treat significant unmet needs for people with cancer.”
Larkspur’s approach is based on transformative discoveries made in the academic labs of leading researchers in cancer cell biology, biochemistry, and immunology. LarkX, the company’s proprietary platform, leverages patient genetics and immune phenotypes, applying bioinformatics and complex in vitro models to discover critical immune barriers. Armed with insights into evasion signatures that can be shared by different cancer indications, LarkX offers the opportunity to address multiple types of cancer.
“First and foremost, we were attracted to Larkspur because of its leadership team. They have what it takes to transform a fresh and important perspective on cancer immunity into reality,” said Amy Schulman, Managing Partner at Polaris Partners and Chair of Larkspur’s Board of Directors. “The breadth of its platform is an additional anchor that attracted us to the company, and it’s a bonus to lend support to this all-female leadership team.”
Leadership and Founding Team
The founders’ discoveries of precision targets in autoimmunity and cancer therapy drove Larkspur’s formation. The founders, Lewis Cantley, PhD, Nathanael Gray, PhD, and Vijay K. Kuchroo, DVM, PhD, are world-class scientists and successful company builders. Each founder brings expertise such that their distinctive collaboration decodes the cancer immune interface in a unique way, forming the foundation of Larkspur’s approach.
Larkspur itself is led by a seasoned team with a track record of developing clinical assets and target discovery platforms. In addition to Sabatos-Peyton, the leadership team includes Krista Goodman, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer, and Emily Corse, PhD, Executive Vice President, Biology & Translation.
Larkspur’s Board of Directors includes Chair Amy Schulman (Polaris Innovation Fund), Sabatos-Peyton, Frank Yan (3E Bioventures Capital), Sacha Mann (Takeda Ventures, Inc.), and Larkspur founder Nathanael Gray, along with observers Alexandra Cantley (Polaris), Wei Li (Creacion Ventures), and Daniel Hu (Med-Fine Capital).
About Larkspur Biosciences
Larkspur Biosciences is building the next precision immunotherapies to outsmart cancer. Larkspur’s approach targets the unique ways that tumors hijack the immune system by developing precision immunotherapies for molecularly defined patient populations in order to overcome these bottlenecks. The company is advancing its first-in-class programs to outsmart the tumor and enable robust and sustained immune responses in colorectal cancer (CRC) and beyond. LarkX, the company’s discovery platform, leverages tumor genetics and immune phenotypes from patient-derived data to fuel its pipeline and offers the opportunities to address multiple types of cancer. Visit us at www.larkspur.bio and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.