A biotech startup focused on treating cancer has raised $5.4 million, led by mining billionaire Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation.
Adelaide-based Carina Biotech will use the cash injection to develop its “CAR-T” cell therapies to treat cancers such as colorectal cancer, which is the deadliest cancer for 25-34-year-old Australians.
Carina’s founding shareholders, board and management also backed the round along with other institutional investors.
The funds will enable the biotech startup to undertake studies to support a clinical trial of its LGR5-targeted CAR-T cell for the treatment of colorectal cancer.
LGR5 is a cancer stem cell marker on a number of cancers. Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) are human-engineered molecules expressed on the surface a patient’s T cells (key cells of the immune system).
Chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapy is a revolutionary and targeted cancer treatment option (immunotherapy) that harnesses a patient’s own immune system to fight their cancer.
The CAR molecules are targeted at molecular markers on cancer cells. T cells armed with CARs (CAR-T cells) can more easily focus on cancer cells and kill them.
The market for CAR-T therapeutics is predicted to be worth $20.3 billion by 2027.
CEO Dr Deborah Rathjen said the company is focused on defeating cancer.
“The LGR5 CAR-T cell for advanced colorectal cancer is a great place to start, given this cancer’s very poor prognosis and rising incidence, particularly in young people,” she said.
“We know that colorectal cancer is the deadliest cancer for young Australians. We also know that there has been a nearly 190% increase in colorectal cancer cases in adolescents and young people in Australia over the last 30 years. These trends are seen internationally as well.”
Dr Steve Burnell, CEO of Minderoo Foundation’s Collaborate Against Cancer Initiative, said: “We are pleased to accelerate the development of breakthrough therapies such as CAR-T against solid tumours. Carina’s program is closely aligned with our strategy that is driving more personalised care and our mission to make cancer a treatable, non-lethal disease.”
Carina Biotech also has a fully integrated, proprietary manufacturing process that has both reduced manufacturing time and improved CAR-T cell quality, capable of delivering robust “serial- killing” CAR-T cells to patients.