Marengo Therapeutics Launches with $80M from ATP, Appoints CEO Zhen Su, MD, to Deliver Breakthrough Cancer Treatments Using Its Selective T Cell Activation Repertoire (STAR) Platform
Differentiated platform built on its groundbreaking discovery of T cell activation via direct antibody targeting of Vβ TCR variants
First-in-class lead molecule slated to enter clinic in 2022
Cambridge, Mass. November 8, 2021 – ATP, a leader in life sciences venture capital, today announced the launch of Marengo Therapeutics, Inc. to develop novel antibodies that target Vb T cell receptor (TCR) variants, selectively boosting anti-tumor T cells and promoting long-term protection against cancer. $80 million in launch financing from ATP will help advance Marengo’s proprietary Selective T Cell Activation Repertoire (STAR) platform and progress the company’s lead candidate into the clinic in 2022.
Marengo is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and led by Chief Executive Officer Zhen Su, M.D., MBA, who joined from Merck KGaA, where he was Senior Vice President and Head of Global Oncology following a successful tenure as Chief Medical Officer for EMD Serono. During his time at Merck KGaA, Dr. Su was instrumental in delivering multiple drug approvals and double-digit growth of the oncology business in addition to building a robust pipeline of assets and establishing key partnerships in the immuno-oncology field.
“Existing immuno-oncology therapies have transformed cancer care, yet they are often unable to overcome dysfunctional T cell responses that develop in patients with cancer and that result in less than a third of patients achieving a durable response,” Dr. Su said. “Marengo’s deep understanding of T cell biology and TCR signaling has driven our discovery of a new mode of T cell activation that promises to more effectively attack tumors and provide long-term protection against cancer. We believe this discovery represents a remarkable departure in the field of immuno-oncology, and our team is working to translate it into a great leap forward for patients.”
From its proprietary antibody library targeting diverse germline-encoded TCR Vβ variants, Marengo can deploy therapeutic antibodies to prime the activation of clonally diverse T cells within both CD8+ and CD4+ effector pools that drive both near-term effector responses to tumors and long-term tumor immunity-promoting memory T cell responses. The activation of T cells using this approach also comes with reduced pro-inflammatory cytokine release that may translate into a better safety and tolerability profile.
“ATP created Marengo Therapeutics to realize the potential of an exciting scientific discovery we have been incubating for several years,” said Seth Harrison, M.D., founder and Managing Partner at ATP. “Priming specific T cells to fight cancer could pave the way to an entirely new class of much-needed effective and durable immunotherapies. We have been and continue to be incredibly energized by the promise of Marengo’s science, and I have great confidence that Zhen and the Marengo leadership team, with their experience and expertise, will deliver on our ambitions to transform cancer care for patients.”
Marengo’s first-in-class lead candidate, STAR0602, is an antibody fusion molecule that binds and activates a specific Vβ TCR variant T cell subset while also delivering additional signals to the same T cell (known as cis-targeting) to further re-program the T cell to enhance anti-tumor activity. STAR0602 is expected to enter the clinic in late 2022 for the treatment of advanced and metastatic solid tumor cancers. Marengo is developing a broad pipeline of additional STAR programs that engage other immune cell types.
“Marengo’s STAR platform is highly flexible; it can turbo-charge cancer patients’ T cells, but with an inherent selectivity and flexibility that enables the engineering of more robust adaptive immune responses to tumors,” said Andrew Bayliffe, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer of Marengo and Venture Partner at ATP.
Raj Chopra, FRCP, FRCPath, FRSB, Ph.D., Chief Medical Officer of Marengo and Head of Oncology and Venture Partner at ATP, added: “The platform has far-reaching applications, with the potential to ’tune’ a patient’s T cell responses on a personalized basis and in a way that could be integrated into different therapeutic regimens to treat a wide variety of advanced cancers.”
About Marengo Therapeutics
Marengo Therapeutics, Inc, an ATP company, is pioneering first-in-class therapeutics that activate the right immune response to promote lifelong protection against cancer. With a passionate team of dedicated scientists experienced in immunology and oncology, Marengo’s proprietary Selective T Cell Activation Repertoire (STAR) platform leverages an extensive biological understanding of T cell function and receptor signaling to create a world in which everyone’s immune system can defeat cancer. To learn more, visit www.marengotx.com.
Founded in 1999, ATP is a leader in life sciences venture capital, with $2.65 billion in committed capital and offices in New York, London, San Francisco, and Cambridge, MA. ATP creates companies starting at various stages, from pre-IP ideas to asset spinouts, investing in them from seed stage through IPO and beyond. The core of ATP’s strategy is providing flexible capital and access to a world-class team of venture partners and EIRs, to build sustainable, research-driven enterprises that deliver therapeutics to improve human lives. For more information, visit www.appletreepartners.com.
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