ImmPACT Bio Raises $111 Million to Advance Promising Cancer Therapies

Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

ImmPACT Bio
Image courtesy of ImmPACT Bio

When Sumant Ramachandra first stumbled upon oncology startup ImmPACT Bio, the Harvard Medical physician-turned-pharmaceutical executive was preparing to move his family to Los Angeles from Illinois, where he had worked as Baxter International’s president of pharmaceuticals. Though he had spent recent years running research and development arms and managing regulatory processes, Ramachandra’s background in immunology and oncology drew him to the company.

“It was a bit like coming home—and very humbling to see how far the field has gone from the time I was a researcher in the late 1990s to where it is today,” Ramachandra said.


Ramachandra joined Camarillo-based ImmPACT Bio as the company’s new president and CEO in November, at a time when the startup was drawing the attention of venture capital firms after showing promising early results in treating non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. That progress has now paid off: On Thursday, the company announced a $111 million Series B funding round led by venBio—a prolific investor in cell therapy and cancer treatments—as well as Foresite Capital and Decheng Capital. The new funding follows an $18 million Series A round that ImmPACT raised in 2020.

Sumant Ramachandra

ImmPACT Bio President and CEO Sumant Ramachandra.

Courtesy of ImmPACT Bio

The five-year-old firm is one of several creating promising cancer therapies known as CAR-T cell therapies, which use genetically-engineered T cells to identify and eliminate cancer cells. Large players in the biopharma world, including Santa Monica-based Kite Pharma and Thousand Oaks-based Amgen, are looking to treat a variety of diseases using CAR-T cell therapy.

But there are still problems with the technology. Current CAR-T cell treatments of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma struggle with antigen escape—which is when the immune cells on the tumor deplete, allowing it to grow or come back. A weakened immune system has trouble attacking cancers because they sometimes secrete molecules that suppress the immune system, and a number of patients end up relapsing after treatment.

The company’s CAR-T cell therapies aim to address those issues and more, by engineering a patient’s own cells to be able to bolster the immune system. A phase 1 clinical trial at UCLA is showing promising results: Seven out of eight patients, all of whom had undergone several other cancer treatments before being dosed, achieved complete remission.

“You're talking about a potential best in class,” Ramachandra said. “And a potential best in class therapy means maybe this can be taken to the centers that are currently not doing CAR-T cell therapy… Maybe there's a potential to make this more broadly applicable and available to patients.”

Though promising, technology will need to evolve for this process to scale. Genetically engineering a patient’s own cells and dosing them can take more than a week, which can be too long a wait for late-stage cancer patients who have already tried several other treatments. Other companies are working to create off-the-shelf CAR-T therapies using other peoples’ cells, which would allow cancer patients to get treated faster. But those therapies can also pose a danger to a cancer patient’s weakened immune system.

ImmPACT Bio will use the funding to move its headquarters to West Hills, in the western San Fernando Valley, and grow its team in manufacturing and research. The company also announced Sheila Gujrathi, a longtime biotech veteran who held leadership positions at Bristol Myers Squibb and Genentech, as the new chair of its board of directors.

“It's a really exciting period to be experiencing here,” Ramachandra said.

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Henrik Fisker Says Tesla Price Cuts Haven’t Fazed Ocean Rollout

David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

A Fisker electric vehicle.​
Courtesy of Fisker

Last week in the dot.LA newsletter I wrote about Tesla’s decision to slash prices by as much as 20% on their vehicles and how the decision might impact Southern California’s EV startups. I called the price cuts a “tough pill to swallow” for Fisker in particular since they would make many of Tesla’s price points more competitive with Fisker’s first production model, The Ocean.

The Ocean is currently undergoing homologation, but Henrik Fisker, the company’s CEO, confirmed to dot.LA that the company hopes the process to be completed at the end of February. From there, it could take several weeks to ship the SUVs from Austria to the United States.

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Diankha Linear on How Community Is Revolutionizing Text Marketing

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

​Diankha Linear
Diankha Linear

On this episode of Office Hours, Community CEO Diankha Linear joins host Spencer Rascoff to discuss her foray into the startup world and the strategic approaching to scaling up.

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admin@dot.la

LA Tech ‘Moves’: Dreamscape, LinQuest and PetDX Gain New CEOs

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

LA Tech ‘Moves’: Dreamscape, LinQuest and PetDX Gain New CEOs

“Moves,” our roundup of job changes in L.A. tech, is presented by Interchange.LA, dot.LA's recruiting and career platform connecting Southern California's most exciting companies with top tech talent. Create a free Interchange.LA profile here—and if you're looking for ways to supercharge your recruiting efforts, find out more about Interchange.LA's white-glove recruiting service by emailing Sharmineh O’Farrill Lewis (sharmineh@dot.la). Please send job changes and personnel moves to moves@dot.la.

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