Curate Biosciences is prepping to go commercial.
The company, which is developing key enabling technology for cell therapy manufacturing, recently announced the closure of a $12 million strategic funding round to support commercialization of its Curate Cell Processing System, an automated platform that delivers a greater number of T cells at higher purity for cell therapies.
The round was led by Vensana Capital, Amgen Ventures and other existing investors.
The company was also awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Commercialization Readiness Program.
In addition to the latest funding round, the newest NIH award builds on a string of previous grants through the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program that supported development of the Curate Platform.
To date, Curate has raised around $65 million.
“Earlier this year we announced our intention to commercialize the Curate platform. Since then, we’ve worked with both academic and commercial partners to demonstrate the Curate’s ability to extract the highest quantity of high-purity T-cells compared with other platforms on the market,” said Curate Biosciences CEO Mike Grisham.
“Through our Technology Access Program, existing partners like City of Hope have evaluated our technology and affirmed their intention to utilize the Curate System as a launchpad for their next-generation CAR-T therapeutics programs,” Grisham added. “This additional financing round will provide additional support as we build our commercial organization and prepare to launch the system for commercial sale.”
The Curate System is a microfluidics device that can reach up to 99% purity in capturing desired T-cells used in cell therapies, said Jason Walsh, chief financial officer of Curate. Walsh likens the technology to a Pachinko game with basketballs and tennis balls where the pegs bounce the larger balls away while easily allowing the smaller ones to get to the bottom.
“In this microfluidic system the cells are not bouncing, but when cells go through hundreds of thousands of properly aligned micro posts, we can get a separation with a half micron distinction of cell size,” he said.
The purity of cells captured by the Curate System is a “real difference” compared to current centrifuge technology that produces layers of cells that then need to be sifted through and separated, causing up to a 90% loss of “cells of interest,” Walsh said.
The purity of cells is important because patients undergoing cell therapy are often immunocompromised and need robust amounts of their healthy white blood cells for the treatments to work.
“Curate has solved the biggest problem in cell therapy: how do you get enough healthy cells from patients that are usually very unwell? Now, the company is ready to bring this platform to market to help organizations providing therapies to these in-need patients,” Grisham said.
Readying for Commercialization
Curate anticipates it will bring its platform to market at the beginning of next year, Walsh said, aided by the recent $12 million round.
For the past several months, biopharmaceutical companies, CDMOs, academic institutes and other potential customers have tested the Curate device though the company’s Technology Access Program. Based on the positive feedback from the companies, the funding will go toward ramping up Curate’s commercial organization and establishing baselines to bring manufacturing of the devices in-house.
Curate plans to expand its footprint in Carlsbad to include onsite production, in addition to its current space that houses labs, Walsh said.
The commercialization of the Curate System will be the fruition of a 20-year endeavor for the company, which pivoted directions – and changed names – in 2017.
Initially, GPB Scientific – an acronym for ‘Getting People Better’ – set out to use its technology in diagnostics, Walsh said. But with the commercial success and adoption of other diagnostic tools like Illumina’s GRAIL, the company started looking at other applications for its core technology and changed from a product for diagnostics to a product for therapeutics.
“When we thought about how we could apply this microfluidic, we realized we could make this cell manufacturing process more robust and less dependent on skilled operators,” Walsh said.
“Being able to have a system that routinely robustly isolates these cell products without having to have advanced user degrees is critical to being able to drive product cost down, speed up the process to get cures faster and be able to distribute this type of treatment much more broadly to people who would otherwise not be able to be served with these kinds of cures. That is really important to us.”
CEO: Mike Grisham
Business: Developer of processing system that enables cell therapy
Notable: The Curate Cell Processing Platform can reach a cell purity of 99%.