How 3 companies merged and raised $100M to treat range of diseases by pulsing cells (San Francisco Business Times)
By Ron Leuty
Republished with permission from San Francisco Business Times
Three related companies are coming together as one to develop pulsed electric field therapies — basically using energy to make cells do what doctors want them to do — to tackle a wide range of diseases, including cancer, thanks to $100 million from a set of well-known investors.
The lineage of Galvanize Therapeutics Inc. of San Carlos is similar among its three predecessor companies: The original Galvanize, Gala Therapeutics and Galaxy Medical were started by Dr. Jonathan Waldstreicher, a partner at Apple Tree Partners, and funded by $93.5 million from ATP.
Waldstreicher and New York-based ATP pushed the three companies through a series of milestones, but with new and upcoming regulatory approvals, Waldstreicher realized that combining the three companies into one made sense for cost-effectively pursuing more from pulsed electric field therapies.
"What we're trying to do here is something larger and longer lasting," Waldstreicher said.
So ATP and the new Galvanize, which has 125 employees, raised a $100 million Series B round in March to turn the power of three into one. The round was led by Fidelity Management & Research Co. with participation from ATP, San Francisco med device and tools venture capital firm Gilmartin Capital LLC and Sunnyvale-based Intuitive Surgical Inc. (NASDAQ: ISRG).
Pulse electric field, or PEF, essentially involves delivering adjustable levels of energy from a box through needles, electrodes or catheters. It has been used as a way to inactivate pathogens in food, but in the past few years it also has been pursued as a way to treat diseases.
The company already has some approved products
Galvanize and its predecessors already have a handful of product approvals. In chronic bronchitis, for example, the company has started to commercially launch its RheOx system in Europe to deliver PEF into airways to affect cell surfaces. Those cells are constantly inflamed due to smoking and as a result overproduce mucus, leading to a range of health problems.
"We can restore it back to a more-normal state," Waldstreicher said.
Galvanize is undertaking a pivotal study of that system in the United States aiming for Food and Drug Administration premarket approval.
The company's Centauri system also is launching commercially in Europe for cardiac arrhythmias, using PEF to build a wall of sorts to prevent aberrant electrical signals in the pulmonary veins, just outside the heart, from taking over the beating of the heart.
PEF is adjustable to the thickness of the heart tissue, Waldstreicher said, so the doctor delivering the pulses via catheter doesn't have to worry about over-treating or under-treating patients.
"The main advantage is the safety," he said.
The company's Aliya system for soft-tissue ablation — basically removing tissue — was recently cleared by the FDA. But Galvanize wants to tap the same system to treat solid tumors by killing cancer cells while at the same time provoking so-called neoantigens on the surfaces of those cells to be recognized and targeted by the immune system.
Galvanize's first target is lung cancer.
The company also is looking at PEF as a way to deliver drugs, potentially even developing drugs itself.
"We are never short on ideas," Waldstreicher said. "We don't want to be like a hammer trying to find nails, but there are a lot of clinical rationales for a modality like this."