Spun out of an MIT lab, sitting in an office space above a Cambridge tapas restaurant from world-renowned chef Ken Oringer is a biotech focused on drastically reducing the amount of time it takes to make cell therapies. And Tuesday, the company co-founded by Paulo Garcia and Cullen Buie said it raised $30 million in Series A funding.
The funding will go toward commercializing its system for accelerating engineered cell therapy production, known as Flowfect Tx. The round also will allow the company to move toward treating its first human with the technology, which it says can engineer simple non-viral manufacturing of cell therapies in just a few days as opposed to weeks.
The fundraising round was led by Northpond Ventures, which said that Kytopen stood out because of its platform-driven approach that broadly addresses the needs of therapeutics. Current investors The Engine, Horizon Ventures, and Mass Ventures all contributed to the round, as well as Aldevron co-founders Michael Chambers and John Ballantyne and Alexandria Venture Investments.
“While there’s so many opportunities for cell therapies to address the limitations of more traditional therapeutics, manufacturing these cells is extremely difficult, and what we found to be a key bottleneck,” Adam Wieschhaus, director at Northpond, said in an interview with Endpoints News.
Garcia said the manufacturing process is extremely fast, and has the potential to unlock more personalized treatments. It uses electromechanical energy to gently introduce genetic material like RNA and DNA to cells that are typically hard to transfect.
“When you have a gentle process, that means however many materials you introduce, that material, in terms of cell numbers, you’re getting significantly more output,” Garcia said. “Meaning you can get to 100s of millions of cells in a shorter amount of time.”
Kytopen wants to unlock that bottleneck and open up ways for cost-effective cell therapies. Its key, Garcia and Buie said, is in the ability to scale up from discovery to clinical manufacturing very quickly.
There are three key milestones that Kytopen’s team hopes this funding will help them achieve: to demonstrate the power of its technology in a clinical setting, to launch the Flowfect cGMP manufacturing system, and to accelerate the high-throughout discovery platform.
“Our view of the world — and others agree — is that there’s been a lot of talk of challenges with manufacturing in this field, in ex vivo cell therapies, and our view is that those manufacturing challenges actually start in discovery,” Buie told Endpoints. “So you start when you’re inventing your therapy, and this is one of the reasons we’re really excited about our technology, because we actually have solutions at the therapy creation phase and at the scale up phase, thus the partners that will work with us, their manufacturing challenges are effectively solved by the way they do the discovery.”
The way Kytopen manufactures at small scale is also the same way it’s done at a larger scale. Buie compared it to cooking pasta: just because the group is making more pasta, doesn’t mean that a larger pot is required. Because the flow rate is so high, you can run the manufacturing process for fractions of seconds for small scale work, and seconds-to-minutes for larger scale manufacturing.