By Mary Welch
Armed with almost $6 million in new financing, t. Breeders Inc. is preparing to file an investigational new drug application and start Phase I trials next year.
The company has raised about $9 million in private financing since its founding, including the current $5.95 million in equity financing that came from a syndicate of four venture capital firms led by MPM Asset Management LLC of Cambridge, Mass., and included Javelin Capital of Birmingham, Ala.; Seaflower Associates Inc., of Waltham, Mass.; and Zero Stage Capital, of Cambridge.
The money actually had been pledged about a year and a half ago, contingent on the company reaching certain milestones. The firm, which has about 10 employees, met the milestones months ahead of schedule.
Worcester, Mass.-based t. Breeders has pioneered a proprietary manufacturing platform for the production of pharmaceutical-grade therapeutic cells.
"We speed up the process of amplifying rare cells for use in cellular medicines," said Morey Kraus, president and chief executive officer. "Perhaps the biggest application is in human stem cells for bone marrow transplantation."
Founded in 1994, t. Breeders evolved out of a paper Kraus wrote while at the Massachusetts Biotechnology Research Institute in Worcester. "I wrote my paper and before I knew it I had a lab and some start-up capital," he said. "This was just an idea on paper at the time and now it is a working system."
The idea was a selective amplification technology that would become the central operating system to create advanced cellular therapeutics. "We pioneered selective amplifications and demonstrated it by amplifying one of the most sought-after cell populations, the rare hematopoietic stem cell, Kraus said.
t. Breeders has demonstrated, using state-of-the-art assays - including NOD/Scid Mouse models - the functional integrity and grafting capability of amplified hematopoietic stem cells, he said.
The potential applications for producing discrete populations of therapeutic cells are diverse, Kraus said. In fact, the company estimated the commercial market of cellular therapies to be nearly $10 billion.
"Well, we see definite uses for cancer patients, organ transplants and reinstalling the immune systems in elderly," Kraus said. Other applications would involve genetics and viral conditions.
The most immediate use would be in stem cell replacement therapy for cancer treatment. With the number of procedures growing at 20 percent annually, Kraus said, an estimated 50,000 stem cell replacements following radiation and chemotherapy will be performed worldwide this year.
"With our selective amplification technology as a production tool, the availability of large cell populations is expected to dramatically improve the therapeutic outcome for existing patients, and may allow more people to consider cell replacement therapy," Kraus said.
Now that t. Breeders is on the path to starting clinical trials, the company is looking further at its corporate direction. It is in talks with companies interested in collaborating, licensing or partnering. Part of financing will be used to beef up the company's infrastructure, including hiring a chief financial officer and other executives.
"We're going through a big growth period," Kraus said.