Astellas Venture Management LLC (President: William Watt, Ph.D., “AVM”), a wholly-owned venture capital subsidiary of Astellas Pharma Inc. (TSE: 4503) (President and CEO: Kenji Yasukawa, Ph.D., “Astellas”) and Mission BioCapital BioLabs (“MBC BioLabs”), a life-science incubator, today announced Bespoke Biotherapeutics and Cellinfinity Bio as the winners of the Astellas-sponsored “Future Innovator Prize” at MBC BioLabs. The award, now in its fourth year, offers entrepreneurial scientists, emerging startups and small biotechs one-year priority usage of MBC BioLabs’ state-of-the-art lab facility in San Francisco, California, as well as access to Astellas’ research and development capabilities and business leaders.
Astellas received more than a dozen applications for the prize. After careful consideration and a competitive “pitch” process, both companies were chosen for strength of the innovation in their approach, the therapeutic potential of their research and expandability of their technological platforms.
“Each year we seek out and award young, entrepreneurial companies whose science and platforms demonstrate innovation and the genuine potential to provide value for the future benefit of patients worldwide,” said William Watt, Ph.D., President, Astellas Venture Management LLC. “We applaud the efforts of Bespoke Biotherapeutics and Cellinfinity Bio for their advancements in immuno-oncology research and congratulate them for their achievement in winning this Future Innovator Prize. It is our hope that this prize, in partnership with MBC BioLabs, will enable them to advance their science and turn their innovations into transformative treatments for patients around the world.”
Bespoke Biotherapeutics is a biotechnology company dedicated to genome engineering of human B-cells into immuno-oncology “living drugs” that can traffic to tumors, co-stimulate and activate T-cells, and locally secrete anticancer and immunomodulatory protein payloads to eradicate high-risk, locally advanced and metastatic solid tumors.
“We are very pleased to be awarded an Astellas Future Innovation Prize,” said Steven R. Deitcher, M.D., CEO, Bespoke Biotherapeutics. “With Astellas’ immuno-oncology expertise and MBC BioLabs’ state-of-the-art incubator space we are well positioned to continue our mission of reprogramming human, peripheral blood-derived B-cells into intuitive “living drug” immunotherapies that target the unique needs of patients with solid tumors.”
Co-recipient Cellinfinity Bio is focused on elevating the current standards of cell therapy against solid tumors and other diseases. By leveraging proprietary, directed evolution of cells, Cellinfinity identifies genetic modifications and CAR constructs that substantially improve engineered T-cell and NK-cell function against solid tumors.
“Cellinfinity Bio engages in the development of proprietary cell evolution technologies that opens near-infinite possibilities of cell therapy in the treatment of solid tumors and other difficult cancers,” said Premal Patel, M.D., Ph.D., CEO, Cellinfinity Bio. “We are grateful to Astellas for their clinical expertise and MBC BioLabs for believing in our vision and making it possible to accelerate and advance our work.”
“We are excited to partner with Astellas and enthusiastic about the potential these two companies have to impact the lives of patients with unmet medical needs,” said Douglas Crawford, MBC BioLabs General Manager. “As recipients of the Future Innovator Prize, they have the opportunity to access our world-class facilities, network with key industry stakeholders including successful biotech peers and get to work hand-in-hand with some of the brightest pharmaceutical minds in the industry at Astellas.”
Both Bespoke Biotherapeutics and Cellinfinity Bio will reside at MBC BioLabs with the next year sponsored by Astellas. Both will be closely supported by the team from AVM and the Astellas Biomedical Innovation Hub organizations in the San Francisco area to maximize their progress.
About the Astellas Future Innovator Prize at MBC BioLabs
Astellas awards up to two prizes for pioneering scientists with innovative research that complements Astellas’ areas of interest in alignment with its Focus Area Approach and pipeline, including Blindness & Regeneration, Mitochondria, Genetic Regulation, Immuno-Oncology, Cell Therapy, and other areas.
The 2021 Astellas Future Innovator Prize winners were Vcreate and Weatherwax Biotechnologies, chosen for the potential of their innovations to deliver therapeutic advances for unmet medical needs and their potential synergy with Astellas’ Focus Area Approach.
For further information, please visit: https://www.astellas.com/en/astellasfutureinnovator/.
About Astellas Venture Management LLC
AVM is the wholly-owned venture capital organization within Astellas, dedicated to supporting pre-clinical, cutting-edge science that can bring VALUE to patients. For over 15 years, AVM has provided equity investments to private, early-stage companies developing therapeutic programs and platform technologies, helping them to advance their innovations faster. AVM is a strategic investor, making investments in science that will enhance the current Astellas R&D pipeline or that could catalyze new directions in discovery research. For more information, please visit our website at https://www.astellas.com/en/astellasfutureinnovator/.
Astellas Pharma Inc. is a pharmaceutical company conducting business in more than 70 countries around the world. We are promoting the Focus Area Approach that is designed to identify opportunities for the continuous creation of new drugs to address diseases with high unmet medical needs by focusing on Biology and Modality. Furthermore, we are also looking beyond our foundational Rx focus to create Rx+® healthcare solutions that combine our expertise and knowledge with cutting-edge technology in different fields of external partners. Through these efforts, Astellas stands on the forefront of healthcare change to turn innovative science into value for patients. For more information, please visit our website at https://www.astellas.com/en.
About MBC BioLabs
MBC BioLabs is dedicated to helping life-science startups succeed. By renting space as small as a single lab bench and providing these entrepreneurial scientists with access to millions of dollars of equipment, MBC BioLabs allows companies to be fast, focused, and frugal. It has three sites: one in the Dogpatch neighborhood in San Francisco and two campuses in San Carlos, California. Each site has a complete molecular biology core facility that allows companies to do experiments on day one. MBC BioLabs has partnerships with leading pharmaceutical and life-science companies as well as a built-in venture capital firm, Mission BioCapital. These partnerships provide entrepreneurs with valuable insights about where to focus their efforts and accelerates the innovation pipeline. Since opening in 2013, MBC BioLabs has helped launch and grow 290 companies. These companies have brought 62 programs to the clinic, produced 13 approved diagnostics, and raised over $13 billion.