CAR Macrophage Tumor Tech Created by UPenn Star Scientists Gets $53M

June 26, 2018

A couple of star scientists at UPenn just got financial backing from AbbVie and other investors to come at solid tumors in an unusual way: re-engineering macrophages to eat up cancer cells.

The Philadelphia-based company was first christened “Carma Therapeutics” when it launched last year, but thanks to pesky trademark conflicts its stepping out today with a new moniker: Carisma Therapeutics. And the new name comes with $53 million in a Series A round led by AbbVie Ventures and HealthCap.

Loaded with cachet among cancer researchers, the company’s founding team includes Saar Gill, a rising expert in CAR-T cells and an assistant professor at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center. But Carisma’s CEO Steven Kelly tells me the company’s tech platform was largely built on PhD candidate Michael Klichinsky’s thesis. Klichinsky, who co-founded Carisma, counted both Gill and Penn’s cancer luminary Carl June as his advisors. And the company managed to bring June, who launched his own cancer startup Tmunity earlier this year, onto its scientific advisory board.

Carisma is working in a very different space than Tmunity, Kelly said, but their goal is common enough: get therapeutics into solid tumors.

“CAR-T has profound results in hematological malignancy, but it has a difficult time reaching the site of the tumor,” Kelly said. “If it does reach the tumor site, it’s met with an immunosuppressive environment.”

Read the full EndPoints article here.