US$35m Tentarix financing to add business for Vancouver's ITS

Vancouver's Innovative Targeting Solutions (ITS) partners with San-Diego-based Tentarix to make drugs

ITS president Michael Gallo is also Tentarix' chief technology officer | Rob Kruyt

San Diego-based Tentarix Biotherapeutics' US$35-million Series B financing is good news for Vancouver's Innovative Targetting Solutions (ITS), with which it shares executives and co-founders. 

The transaction is set to spur drug-development work for ITS, said ITS chief scientific officer Paul Kang.

Kang is on Tentarix' board of directors and is a co-founder of both Tentarix and ITS. ITS president and co-founder Michael Gallo is also involved with Tentarix, as he co-founded that venture and is its chief technology officer. Tentarix' other co-founders include its CEO, Paul Grayson, its chief scientific officer, Stephen Demarest, and its chief development officer Margaret Karow.

ITS employs 14 staff who work out of the company's 5,000-square-foot head office and lab on Virtual Way in East Vancouver. ITS is not hiring at the moment, Kang said, but he does expect the company's workload to expand.

"The way most drugs work these days is that they either activate or inhibit the single pathway," Kang told BIV. "What our drugs do is they actually can survey what's on the surface of a cell and integrate multiple signals, and then only deliver that biology to the appropriate cells."

The core technology that generates these drugs was developed and discovered in Vancouver by ITS, Kang said. The treatments are antibody-based and they target cancer and inflammatory diseases. 

Tentarix today announced that its new US$35-million financing was led by Amplitude Ventures with participation from Gilead Sciences, Inc. (Nasdaq:GILD), and founding investors Versant Ventures and Samsara BioCapital.

Tentarix CEO Paul Grayson said the new money "extends our cash runway and enables us to expand our pipeline of cell-specific, conditionally active multifunctional biologics that have the potential to tackle previously undruggable targets.”

The financing comes on the heels of Tentarix earlier this month announcing a partnership with Gilead that could be worth up to US$306 million, and included Gilead paying Tentarix an initial US$66 million to develop drugs. 

Tentarix in 2021 raised US$50 million in a financing round co-led by two San Francisco-based companies: Versant and Samsara BioCapital.

Gallo and Kang in 2008 founded ITS, which has been active in partnerships with other B.C. biotechnology companies, such as Zymeworks Inc. (Nasdaq:ZYME).

Gallo moved to B.C. from California in 2001, when California-based Abgenix acquired University of British Columbia startup Imgenix and created a Burnaby-based subsidiary called Abgenix Biopharma.

He served as director of research for that subsidiary and then vice-president of research.

When California-based biotechnology giant Amgen (Nasdaq:AMGN) bought Abgenix in 2006 for US$2.2 billion, Gallo obtained a small windfall by selling his shares in what had been a Nasdaq-listed company, he told BIV in 2016.

He stayed for another 17 months with what was renamed Amgen British Columbia – a venture that still exists – before leaving in 2008 to co-found ITS. Kang also previously worked at Amgen.

"We continue to be the discovery engine for Tentarix," Kang said of ITS.