Hendri Wigunah

Hendri Wigunah

Startup Founder & Millenial Entrepreneur

Former Juno execs unveil Sana, a new cell engineering biotech that’s reportedly raising more than $800M – GeekWire

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Hans Bishop at the 2016 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)

Former Juno Therapeutics executives Hans Bishop and Steve Harr have launched Sana Biotechnology, a startup focused on cell therapy, gene therapy and gene editing.

Backed by ARCH Venture Partners, Flagship Pioneering and F-Prime Capital Partners, the new company is notable not just for its experienced leadership team, but also the amount of funding it is looking to raise out of the gates.

Sana is reportedly working on a series A funding round with the goal of raising between $800 million and $1 billion, according to Axios.

That amount of capital would make the company one of the most heavily-funded biotech upstarts in the Seattle area since — yep, you guessed it: Juno Therapeutics.

Juno — a spin out of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Seattle Children’s Research Institute — raised $264 million in an initial public offering in 2014 just a year after it was founded with capital from Arch Venture Partners, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and others. A developer of CAR T immunotherapies to genetically reprogram a patient’s immune cells, Juno was sold to Celgene last year for $9 billion, an amazingly quick payoff for investors.

Bob Nelsen (Photo: Arch Venture Partners)

Sana appears to be looking to repeat the success of Juno, bringing together a roster of experts with cell and gene therapy backgrounds. The company said that it will create medicines across a range of areas, including modifying cells both inside and outside the body as well as immunological treatments to improve the reception of donor cells.

“We have assembled a scientific team and a portfolio of potential medicines and technologies from proven scientific innovators,” Sana co-founder and executive chairman Hans Bishop said in a statement. “I look forward to working again with ARCH Venture Partners, focusing on advancing the technologies in the company today as well as bringing in additional technologies and capabilities to make our vision around engineered cells a reality.”

Bishop left Juno Therapeutics in April 2018 after its acquisition by Celgene.

Sana’s CEO is Steve Harr, who served as CFO at Juno. Its chief development officer, Sunil Agarwal, is the former president of R&D at Juno, and its chief scientific officer is Chad Cowan, who is a professor at Harvard University’s Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology.

Sana will split its headquarters between Seattle, San Francisco and Cambridge, Mass.

ARCH Venture Partners co-founder Robert Nelsen provided GeekWire with some background on how Sana was formed.

“[ARCH] wanted to work with Hans and Steve again, start the next great biotech to make a bet on cell therapy in a broad array of diseases. So we showed Hans and Steve some things, they loved it, and we began working on the cell side. Then Flagship with Jeff von Maltzahn and Noubar [Afeyan] were trying to get Hans and Steve to take a look at some mind-blowing gene therapy tech they had put Into a company. So we combined forces and Flagship co-founded with us to make the ultimate next-gen cell engineering company with gene therapy and cell therapy.”

Here’s the team behind the new company:

Founding Executive Team

  • Steve Harr, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer
  • Sunil Agarwal, M.D., Chief Development Officer and Head of Portfolio Strategy
  • Chad Cowan, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer
  • Andy May, DPhil, Chief Technology Officer
  • Robin Andrulevich, Chief People Officer
  • Nate Hardy, Chief Financial Officer
  • Christian Hordo, Chief Business Officer
  • James MacDonald, General Counsel

Founding Board of Directors

  • Hans Bishop, Executive Chair, former Chief Executive Officer of Juno Therapeutics, Inc.
  • Richard Mulligan, Ph.D., Executive Vice Chair, Mallinckrodt Professor of Genetics, Emeritus, Harvard Medical School
  • Steve Harr, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, Sana
  • Noubar Afeyan, Ph.D., Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Flagship Pioneering
  • Tom Daniel, M.D., former President, Research and Early Development, Celgene
  • Stephen Knight, M.D., President and Managing Partner, F-Prime Capital
  • Robert Nelsen, co-founder and Managing Director of ARCH Venture Partners
  • Don Payan, M.D., founder and former Chief Scientific Officer, Rigel Pharmaceuticals
  • Pat Yang, Ph.D., former EVP and Head of Technical Operations, Roche/Genentech
  • Geoffrey von Maltzahn, Ph.D., Partner, Flagship Pioneering

Founding Scientists:

  • David Baker, Ph.D., Director of the Institute for Protein Design, University of Washington School of Medicine, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator
  • Chad Cowan, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School
  • Richard Mulligan, Ph.D., Mallinckrodt Professor of Genetics, Emeritus, Harvard Medical School
  • Chuck Murry, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine
  • Sonja Schrepfer, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Adult Cardiothoracic Surgery, Director of TSI Lab University of California San Francisco
    Scientific team at Flagship Labs led by Geoffrey von Maltzahn, Ph.D.

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