Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Notch Therapeutics, a Vancouver biotechnology company developing a platform to produce immune cells on an industrial scale for treating diseases such as cancer, has raised US$85-million in venture funding to triple its staff and expand its research.

The company’s platform imitates a portion of a human lymphoid gland called the thymus that helps develop immune cells in large quantities for therapeutic use. In November, 2019, the company began collaborating with Allogene Therapeutics Inc. to develop treatments for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma.

Allogene is among the investors in Wednesday’s financing round, which Notch said is being led by a health care investment fund it declined to name, with participation from past investors including Toronto’s Lumira Ventures and CCRM Enterprises Holdings Ltd., an affiliate of Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine. New backers include California’s EcoR1 Capital and Samsara BioCapital, as well as New York-based Casdin Capital and Amplitude Ventures from Montreal.

Story continues below advertisement

Biotech blind spot: how Canada's big investors missed the boom that is happening now

RBC taps into biotech surge, investing in new Lumira venture fund

Biotechnology companies have seen a surge in interest in recent years, with companies such as cancer-drug developer Repare Therapeutics Inc. and Chinook Therapeutics Inc. taking advantage of the moment by listing publicly.

In an interview, Notch president and chief executive David Main said the company hopes to tap into the public markets once it hits certain milestones in order to scale up its capital-intensive research and development. Mr. Main previously founded and took Aquinox Pharmaceuticals public on the Nasdaq exchange.

“This is a platform that could spawn many products,” Mr. Main said. “... The holy grail for cell therapy is to make it more drug-like – ready to go as soon as it’s prescribed, applicable for anybody, and being able to make it in big enough quantities that you can treat thousands of patients,” he added.

Notch’s platform was created by the labs of two renowned Canadian cell-therapy researchers: Juan-Carlos Zuniga-Pflucker of the Sunnybrook Research Institute and Peter Zandstra, who was then at the University of Toronto. By replicating immune cells on an industrial scale, Mr. Main said it could reduce the need to rely on cell donors while taking the development process from the scale of a petri dish to that of “large-scale bioreactors.”

Over the next two years, Mr. Main said the company plans to expand its work force to more than 100, from 35, as it deepens its product development experience and moves closer to generating the kind of clinical data that public-market investors would expect. The company’s research is still in a preclinical stage, Mr. Main said, “a ways away” from commercialization.

But the work Notch has done so far has impressed investors such as Lumira Ventures, which alongside the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, or CCRM, was among the earlier supporters of the platform’s inventors, helping convince them to build a company around it. Toronto Innovation Acceleration Partners, formerly called MaRS Innovation, also helped found the company.

For Lumira, the platform solved a long-standing bottleneck in therapy development, for which it had scoured the world for solutions. “We had an interest in cell therapies, but we were always concerned about what had been the main challenge in this sector – establishing a reliable, consistent and scalable manufacturing system,” said Benjamin Rovinski, a Lumira managing director.

Story continues below advertisement

With the new financing round, Dr. Rovinski said, “This is going to be a best-in-class, next-generation cellular immunotherapy company.”

In an e-mail, CCRM CEO and president Michael May called Notch’s technology a “revolutionary manufacturing platform” that would help Canada become a global leader in cell and gene therapy.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies