SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO — Walking Fish Therapeutics, a leader in B cell engineering, has closed $50 million in Series A financing— led by investors including Emerson Collective, Illumina Ventures and Quan Capital— to develop B cell therapeutics for oncology, rare disease, regenerative medicine, autoimmune disease, and recombinant antibody production.
Walking Fish Therapeutics has made critical advances in developing a platform to harness B cells’ capability to activate the immune system in the treatment of cancer, and to serve as in vivo protein factories that produce replacement proteins for deficiency diseases, regenerative proteins, and engineered antibodies.
Walking Fish Therapeutics’ leadership team incluces Co- founder and CEO, Dr. Lewis “Rusty” Williams, who has devoted his career to helping patients by discovering, developing, and commercializing first-in-class therapies for unmet medical needs. He is a former practicing cardiologist, current member of the National Academy of Sciences, co-founder of COR Therapeutics (now part of Takeda) and founder of Five Prime Therapeutics (now part of Amgen). Dr. Williams is joined by distinguished prior investors, board directors, and executives to set the foundation for B cell platform and drug development at Walking Fish Therapeutics.
“In my 35 years of academic and biotech research on protein drugs, the field of B cell therapeutics may be the biggest paradigm shift for human protein therapies,” said Dr. Williams. “Walking Fish is harnessing the unique features of B cells to address unmet needs in the treatment for solid tumors, and in non-oncology indications in which B cells can uniquely and durably deliver important proteins with known therapeutic activity.”
“B cells play an important role in the rejection of tumors by the immune system,” said Dr. Mark Selby, co-founder and VP Immunology of Walking Fish Therapeutics and co-inventor of the immuno-oncology drug OPDIVO and multiple others. “We have learned to engineer B cells that can target certain cancers and provide a treatment modality that is different from that of other T cell or antibody therapies.”
“Walking Fish is at the forefront of the burgeoning B cell therapeutics field, rooted in well understood biology, the evolutions of protein therapeutics, and recent progress in cell therapies,” said Momo Wu, Ph.D., Investment Manager at Emerson Collective. “We believe these novel therapies will drive a paradigm shift in the treatment of a number of diseases.
“Walking Fish’s financial backing, combined with its high-caliber leadership team, positions it well for success in pioneering B cell engineering,” said Alexis Ji, Ph.D., Partner at Illumina Ventures. “We believe the company has the potential to take the protein and cell therapeutics field to a new plane.”
“We are encouraged by the tremendous progress Walking Fish has made during the seed funding phase, and we now look forward to the company developing its product candidate in B cell therapeutics, which can be used to treat diseases that are challenging to address with current methods,” said Stella Xu, Ph.D., Managing Director at Quan Capital.