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Startup HiberCell gets more than $60M to focus on mechanism behind cancer metastasis, recurrence


Researchers at New York’s Mount Sinai Health System have launched a company grown out of research into the mechanisms behind cancer metastases.

HiberCell, also based in New York, launched Thursday with a $60.75 million Series A funding round, led by ARCH Venture Partners and with participation from Celgene, Hillhouse Capital, 6 Dimensions Capital, the NYC Life Sciences Fund and undisclosed institutional investors, family offices and private individuals.

The company’s pipeline page lists two potential product candidates, HC-5404 and HC-5407, in preclinical discovery for solid tumor metastasis and also recurrences of solid and liquid tumors.

The company was founded based on research conducted at Mount Sinai’s Tisch Cancer Institute showing that cancer recurrence is driven by dormant disseminated tumor cells, or DTCs, that can persist in the body for long periods of time. The company hopes to approach cancer as a systemic disease, detect and target DTCs to prevent or delay metastasis. “We know that dormant disseminated tumor cells are critical drivers of cancer metastasis,” company co-founder and chief scientific officer Alan Rigby said in a statement. “In translating this biology into the clinic, our work will be focused on further defining the characteristic genetics and transcriptonomics of dormant disseminated tumor cells and charting a course to leverage our dormancy therapies to improve patient outcomes and survival.”

Rigby referred to HiberCell as “the foundational tumor dormancy company,” but there have been efforts at numerous academic research institutions into the area of cancer cell dormancy. For example, this month’s issue of the journal Trends in Pharmacological Science includes a paper by researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia titled “Targeting Cancer Cell Dormancy.” Another, in the February issue of Advances in Cancer Research titled “Dormancy and Cancer stem cells: An enigma for cancer therapeutic targeting,” was published by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“HiberCell will build on the foundational biology that is in place by focusing on novel tools to better detect, isolate and annotate the survival mechanisms in these dormant cancer cells,” said Julio Aguirre-Ghiso, the company’s scientific founder, in a statement.

Photo: Getty Images

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