A Belgian cell therapy company has secured $ 60 million in funding to strengthen its manufacturing operations and develop the cell and gene therapy ecosystem around the world.
Ncardia landed funding from Kiniciti, a US investment platform backed by Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, a New York-based private equity firm. The move gives Kiniciti a controlling stake in Ncardia to improve everything from discovery to clinical programs to commercialized production, the company said in a press release.
Ncardia will use Kiniciti’s capital to drive drug discovery by creating additional human cell models that can predict whether drugs are safe and effective earlier in the development process. It will also use new manufacturing technology to create iPSC-based allogeneic platforms for immuno-oncology. This will hopefully expand access and lower the cost of cell therapy.
“Combining Ncardia’s breakthrough and differentiated science with our ability to build global businesses and supportive ecosystems will create significant value for therapeutic customers,” Kiniciti CEO Geoff Glass said in a press release. “We are delighted to make Ncardia the centerpiece of an ecosystem that we will build to ensure that cell therapies claim their rightful place in the advancement of human health. Through this partnership, Ncardia customers will benefit from the company’s extensive cGMP capabilities in cell therapy and more robust offerings in discovery services.
Ncardia uses induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), which can be generated directly from a somatic cell such as blood or skin.
The company entered into a non-exclusive licensing agreement with Evotec in 2017 that gave German biotechnology access to the cellular disease modeling intellectual property derived from Ncardia stem cells. The deal came just months after Ncardia announced it would enter into a licensing deal with Roche for its very first partnership.
In a 2020 interview with Review of drug targetsCEO Stefen Braam said his company has struggled with the scaling process for years and years. The company now generates large batches of cells and cryopreserves them to allow the same batch to be used for development and screening to minimize variability in iPSCs.
“Now we’ve really got a handle on that,” he said in the interview. “The key to solving this problem has been to change the culture methodology to suspension culture in bioreactors. With the bioreactors, we have now reached sizes of around 20 billion cardiomyocytes in a single batch. The billion is the new million.