Brandon Capital backs New Zealand immunotherapy start-up

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Brandon Capital has partnered with another investor to inject NZ$15.25 million into the University of Auckland spin-out TamoRx.

The company, founded by Dr Joanna Mathy and Professor Rod Dunbar from the university’s School of Biological Sciences, is working to develop new cancer-targeting immunotherapy.

The investment was led by the life science investor Brandon Capital along with the University of Auckland Inventors’ Fund, managed by UniServices, the University’s commercialisation and research impact company.

The investment includes a Callaghan Innovation repayable grant of $750,000, administered by Brandon Capital, one of the four partners selected for the Callaghan Innovation Technology Incubator Programme.

TamoRx will focus on improving the immune attack on cancer cells within tumours. “We discovered a new mechanism that restricts the immune system from fighting cancer,” said Dr Mathy.

“We are aiming to free patients’ immune systems from this restriction and increase the immune attack on cancer cells within tumours. To do this we need to develop new drugs that can target this immune control mechanism without affecting other cells in the body. We want to move quickly so we can bring new immunotherapy to patients as soon as possible, and the scale of this new investment will allow us to move all the way to early-stage clinical trials if we’re successful in our pre-clinical development.”

Professor Dunbar added, “We know that immunotherapy is the most promising therapy to achieve long-term survival from cancer in cases where it has spread through the body. Although this kind of therapy can cure some patients with even the most advanced cancer, we need to be able to target many different mechanisms within the immune system to enable more patients to benefit. The new immune control pathway we discovered offers new hope for a broad range of cancer patients.”

“The team has a unique insight that can help to build a completely new approach to immunotherapy and that’s why we’re excited to lead this investment,” said Duncan Mackintosh, the head of Brandon Capital New Zealand. “We have a world-class team developing what could be a revolutionary therapy for cancer patients globally and it’s great to see this happen from New Zealand, really highlighting the capability of our research community.”

"It has been a privilege to work with the team to form and secure investment into TamoRx. UniServices is proud to support TamoRx and help to advance them to reach the full potential of this novel approach to cancer therapy,” said Evelyn Body, the director of commercialisation at UniServices.