Simcha Therapeutics Announces License & Option Agreement to Develop Novel Decoy-resistant IL-18 for Use in Cell Therapy Applications

South San Francisco, Calif., and New Haven, Conn. – January 8, 2024 – Simcha Therapeutics (“Simcha”), a clinical-stage immunobiology company pioneering first-in-class cytokine treatments in cancer, today announced that it has entered into a license and option agreement with Janssen Biotech, Inc. (“Janssen”), a Johnson & Johnson company, where Janssen will work to armor select CAR T-based cell therapy candidates with Simcha’s novel proprietary decoy-resistant IL-18 (DR-18). The agreement was facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Innovation.

Under the terms of the agreement, Janssen will develop, manufacture, and commercialize DR-18 armored cell therapies for a set number of programs. In exchange, Simcha will receive an undisclosed upfront fee, potential option exercise fees and development and commercialization milestone payments.

“Interest in developing IL-18 therapeutic approaches for cancer has continued to increase in recent years, tying back to findings published by our scientific founder that reinvigorated therapeutic interest in this cytokine. Armoring CAR T cells to secrete IL-18 is one of the most exciting areas of research, and we are proud to move the research forward with Janssen,” said Sanuj Ravindran, M.D., chief executive officer of Simcha. “We will continue to expand our focus on IL-18 and the range of modalities that have potential to significantly improve outcomes for cancer patients, including through our internal development programs and additional strategic partnerships in the future.”

About Simcha Therapeutics

Simcha Therapeutics is a clinical-stage immunobiology company pioneering the development of first-in-class engineered cytokine therapeutics with transformational promise for patients. The company is built on a foundation of scientific rigor to overcome biological challenges in clinically translatable pathways, exemplified by the first decoy-resistant interleukin-18 (IL-18). By unlocking the potential of IL-18, Simcha is developing its lead program (ST-067) as monotherapy and in combination with other anticancer agents. ST-067 is currently being studied both as a monotherapy and in combination with KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) in Phase 1/2 clinical trials, in patients with solid tumors and who have progressed on other immunotherapeutic agents. Simcha is exploring additional modalities for IL-18-based therapeutics to capture the full potential of this potentially transformational cytokine. For more information, please visit www.simchatherapeutics.com.

Simcha Therapeutics Announces its Scientific Advisory Board, Comprised of Renowned Experts in Immunology and Oncology

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., and NEW HAVEN, Conn., – August 22, 2023 – Simcha Therapeutics (“Simcha”), a clinical-stage immunobiology company pioneering first-in-class cytokine treatments in cancer, today announced the formation of a scientific advisory board that will support the company’s efforts to realize the potential of IL-18-focused therapeutic approaches.

“IL-18 has a significant range of potential therapeutic uses across multiple modalities, and Simcha is eager to identify and evaluate the applications with the most promise for yielding transformational outcomes for patients,” said Sanuj Ravindran, M.D., CEO of Simcha. “Our scientific advisory board of experts in immunology and cancer will help guide our efforts to broaden the applications for decoy-resistant IL-18, and drive explorations in new directions.”

The members of the advisory board are:

W. Nicholas Haining, BM, BCh, is chief scientific officer and co-founder of ArsenalBio. He is a physician-scientist, and prior to co-founding ArsenalBio, he was the vice president of discovery oncology and immunology at Merck Research Laboratories. Dr. Haining received his undergraduate and medical degree from Oxford University and completed his medical training in pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, and subsequently in pediatric hematology/oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. As an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and an associate member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, his lab defined some of the key transcriptional and epigenetic regulators of T cell exhaustion and used in vivo genetic screens to identify immune vulnerabilities of cancer cells in mouse models. He also led a multi-disciplinary organization at Merck that focused on using innovative approaches to identify new therapeutic strategies for cancer and immunological disease.

Susan Kaech, Ph.D., is professor and director of the NOMIS Center for Immunobiology & Microbial Pathogenesis and holds the NOMIS Chair at the Salk Institute. Her work focuses on understanding how memory T cells are produced during infection and vaccination to provide long-term immunity and sometimes fail to do so. She is also a leader in field of cancer immunology and elucidating metabolic control of immune cells in cancer. She was previously a Waldemar Von Zedwitz Professor in the Department of Immunology at Yale University. She holds a Ph.D. in developmental biology from Stanford University and completed her postdoctoral fellowship in the department of microbiology and immunology at Emory University.

Jeffrey Miller, M.D., is professor of medicine, University of Minnesota and deputy director, Masonic Cancer Center and the Roger L. and Lynn C. Headrick Chair in cancer therapeutics. Dr. Miller has more than 25 years of experience studying the biology of natural killer (NK) cells and other immune effector cells and their use in clinical immunotherapy with over 300 peer-reviewed publications. After completing a post-doctoral fellowship in hematology, oncology and transplantation at the University of Minnesota, he joined the faculty in 1991. Previously, he completed an internship and residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Dr. Miller received a BSc degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and received his M.D. from Northwestern University School of Medicine.

Aaron Ring, M.D., Ph.D., is the founder of Simcha Therapeutics and currently serves as associate professor and Anderson Family Chair for Immunotherapy at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. Prior to this, he was associate professor of immunobiology at Yale University. His research is focused on understanding and manipulating the communication circuitry of the immune system using precision immunopharmacology and systems immunology. His seminal work identifying the “jamming signal” called IL-18BP produced by tumors that prevents IL-18 binding and activation is the foundation of Simcha’s therapeutic approach. He holds M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Stanford University.

Emmett Schmidt, M.D., Ph.D., is vice president of early oncology development for Merck Research Labs where he oversees more than 46 company collaborations involving more than 95 clinical studies. He joined Merck in 2010 as a senior principal scientist and has continued to take on additional responsibilities in the development of oncology therapies. Prior to joining Merck, Dr. Schmidt was a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Schmidt holds M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Duke University and earned a M.A in biology from Harvard University.

Mario Sznol, M.D., professor of medicine and clinical research leader in the melanoma program and co-leader, cancer immunology program at Yale Cancer Center. Dr. Sznol conducts clinical research for melanoma and kidney cancer patients with a major focus on immunotherapies. Before joining Yale in 2004, Dr. Sznol served as vice president, clinical affairs of Vion Pharmaceuticals where he oversaw development of the company’s anticancer drug candidates. Prior to that, he served as head of the Biologics Evaluation Section, Investigational Drug Branch at the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Sznol earned a M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine and a B.S. in biochemistry from Rice University.

About Simcha Therapeutics

Simcha Therapeutics is a clinical-stage immunobiology company pioneering the development of first-in-class engineered cytokine therapeutics with transformational promise for patients. The company is built on a foundation of scientific rigor to overcome biological challenges in clinically translatable pathways, exemplified by the first decoy-resistant interleukin-18 (IL-18). By unlocking the potential of IL-18, Simcha is developing its lead program (ST-067) as monotherapy and in combination with potentially several other anticancer agents. ST-067 is currently being studied both as a monotherapy and in combination with KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) in Phase 1/2 clinical trials, in patients with solid tumors and who have progressed on other immunotherapeutic agents. Simcha is seeking to explore additional modalities for IL-18-based therapeutics and capture the full potential of this potentially transformational cytokine. For more information, please visit www.simchatherapeutics.com.

Media Contact

Carolyn Hawley
Evoke Canale
Carolyn.hawley@evokegroup.com
619.849.5382

Simcha Therapeutics Announces First Patient Dosed in Phase 1/2 Study Evaluating ST-067 in Combination with KEYTRUDA® (Pembrolizumab) in Patients with Various Solid Tumors

NEW HAVEN, Conn., and SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – July 6, 2023 – Simcha Therapeutics (“Simcha”), a clinical-stage immunobiology company pioneering first-in-class cytokine treatments in cancer, today announced that the first patient has been dosed in a Phase 1/2 clinical trial of ST-067, Simcha’s decoy resistant IL-18 agent, in combination with Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), in patients with advanced solid tumors.

The Phase 1/2 open-label, dose-escalation study is evaluating ST-067 in combination with pembrolizumab in a variety of solid tumors (NCT04787042). The objective of the study is to determine the maximum tolerated dose (MTD), the recommended Phase 2 dose (R2PD) and preliminary activity of ST-067 in combination with pembrolizumab. Secondary endpoints include assessment of safety, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and immunogenicity.

“We have observed encouraging anti-tumor activity in preclinical studies combining our decoy-resistant IL-18 with PD-1 inhibitors, and we look forward to now studying this combination in the clinic,” said Sanuj Ravindran, M.D., CEO of Simcha Therapeutics. “KEYTRUDA has become the standard of care for many cancer patients, and we believe adding ST-067 could further improve clinical outcomes. This combination has the potential to become a powerful new therapeutic option for patients and physicians.”

KEYTRUDA is a registered trademark of Merck Sharp & Dohme LLC, a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, NJ, USA.

About ST-067

ST-067 is the first “decoy-resistant” variant of IL-18, designed to be impervious to the decoy receptor IL-18BP, which blocks IL-18 from interacting with its receptor. ST-067 has been shown in preclinical studies to maintain strong immune stimulation in the tumor microenvironment and is currently in Phase 1/2 clinical development as both a monotherapy and in combination with KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab).

About Simcha Therapeutics

Simcha Therapeutics is a clinical-stage immunobiology company pioneering the development of first-in-class engineered cytokine therapeutics with transformational promise for patients. The company is built on a foundation of scientific rigor to overcome biological challenges in clinically translatable pathways, exemplified by the first decoy-resistant interleukin-18 (IL-18). By unlocking the potential of IL-18, Simcha is developing its lead program (ST-067) as monotherapy and in combination with potentially several other anticancer agents. ST-067 is currently being studied both as a monotherapy and in combination with KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) in a Phase 1/2 clinical trials, in patients with solid tumors and who have progressed on other immunotherapeutic agents. Simcha is seeking to explore additional modalities for IL-18-based therapeutics and capture the full potential of this potentially transformational cytokine. For more information, please visit www.simchatherapeutics.com.

Media Contact

Carolyn Hawley
Evoke Canale
Carolyn.hawley@evokegroup.com
619.849.5382

Simcha Therapeutics Announces Clinical Trial Collaboration with Merck to Evaluate ST-067 in Combination with KEYTRUDA® (Pembrolizumab) in Patients with Various Solid Tumors

Dr. Emmett Schmidt, Merck Vice President of Early Oncology Development, to Join the Simcha Scientific Advisory Board

NEW HAVEN, Conn., and SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – April 5, 2023 – Simcha Therapeutics (“Simcha”), a clinical-stage immunobiology company pioneering first-in-class cytokine treatments in cancer, today announced a clinical trial collaboration with Merck (known as MSD outside the US and Canada) to evaluate clinical safety and benefits of ST-067, Simcha’s decoy resistant IL-18 agent, in combination with Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), in patients with solid tumors. In conjunction with this collaboration, Dr. Emmett Schmidt, vice president of early oncology development for Merck, will join Simcha’s scientific advisory board.

“ST-067, with its ability to stimulate both adaptive and innate immunity, has potential in a broad range of tumor types, and preclinical experiments combining ST-067 with immuno-oncology agents such as Keytruda have generated encouraging results,” said Sanuj Ravindran, M.D., CEO of Simcha Therapeutics. “I’m excited to work with Dr. Schmidt, and we are eager to leverage Merck’s expertise to evaluate the clinical benefits of ST-067 in combination with Keytruda in hopes of bringing transformational medicines for cancer patients.”

“I am delighted to join the Scientific Advisory Board at Simcha,” commented Dr. Schmidt. “I look forward to directly contributing to the development of agents with the potential to benefit patients receiving Keytruda in combination with emerging combination agents.”

KEYTRUDA is a registered trademark of Merck Sharp & Dohme LLC, a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, NJ, USA.

About ST-067

ST-067 is the first “decoy-resistant” variant of IL-18, designed to be impervious to the decoy receptor IL-18BP, which blocks IL-18 from interacting with its receptor, thereby blocking the cytokine’s immunostimulatory activity. ST-067 has been shown in preclinical studies to maintain strong immune stimulation in the tumor microenvironment and is currently in Phase 1a/2 clinical development as a monotherapy in solid tumors. Additional clinical studies of ST-067 as both a monotherapy and in combination with other therapies such as Keytruda (pembrolizumab) are planned.

About Simcha Therapeutics

Simcha Therapeutics is a clinical-stage immunobiology company pioneering the development of first-in-class engineered cytokine therapeutics with transformational promise for patients. The company is built on a foundation of scientific rigor to overcome biological challenges in clinically translatable pathways, exemplified by the first decoy-resistant interleukin-18 (IL-18). By unlocking the potential of IL-18, Simcha is developing its lead program (ST-067) as monotherapy and in combination with potentially several other anticancer agents. ST-067 is currently being studied in a Phase 1a/2 clinical trial, in patients with solid tumors and who have progressed on other immunotherapeutic agents. Simcha is seeking to explore additional modalities for IL-18-based therapeutics and capture the full potential of this potentially transformational cytokine.  For more information, please visit www.simchatherapeutics.com.

Media Contact

Carolyn Hawley
Evoke Canale
Carolyn.hawley@evokegroup.com
619.849.5382

Simcha Therapeutics Accelerates Growth with Key Leadership Appointments, Expanded Research and Option Agreement with Yale School of Medicine

Company Appoints Accomplished Biotech Leaders Sanuj Ravindran, M.D., as Chief Executive Officer and Jake Bauer as Independent Director and Chair

NEW HAVEN, Conn., and SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – August 16, 2022 – Simcha Therapeutics (“Simcha”), a clinical-stage immunobiology company pioneering first-in-class cytokine treatments in cancer, today announced the appointment of Sanuj Ravindran, M.D., as chief executive officer and director, and Jake Bauer as an independent member and chair of its board of directors.

Simcha has also expanded its sponsored research agreement with Yale School of Medicine related to cytokine biology in the laboratory of Aaron Ring, Ph.D., M.D., associate professor of immunobiology and Simcha founder. Through this expanded agreement, the company will support research in the Ring Laboratory focused on overcoming biological limitations of native cytokines. Simcha holds an exclusive option to license multiple therapeutic agents resulting from the expanded research agreement.

“With the support of our successful Series B financing and encouraging progress being made with ST-067 in the clinic, Simcha is entering a stage of dynamic growth with even greater opportunity ahead,” said Bauer. “I’m thrilled to have joined the company earlier this year, and excited to have recruited Sanuj, a skilled and thoughtful leader, to guide Simcha as it navigates its many potential avenues for growth.”

Dr. Ravindran remarked, “Simcha is built on a remarkable scientific foundation and Aaron’s bold vision that patients deserve more than incremental advances. Together these have led to the advancement of a promising first-in-class therapeutic in ST-067, our decoy resistant IL-18 agent; and created a new way forward for IL-18 as a potentially powerful and broadly applicable cancer immunotherapy pathway. As Simcha continues to explore the breadth of ST-067’s potential in the clinic, and as we accelerate the advancement of other engineered cytokines, I feel privileged to build and lead a patient and product focused organization with a commitment to pioneering truly transformational therapies.”

Dr. Ravindran has spent more than 20 years in strategic and operational roles across the life science industry, both as an investor and company builder. Most recently, he served as CEO-in-residence at BridgeBio (BBIO) where he was chief executive officer of PellePharm and executive chair of Phoenix Tissue Repair. In these roles, Dr. Ravindran led the companies’ growth, directed strategy, secured significant partnerships, and advanced pipeline programs in oncology and rare skin diseases through mid- and late-stage clinical trials. Before this, he served as chief business officer at aTyr Pharma (LIFE), a clinical-stage protein therapeutics company focused on tRNA synthetases. Prior to that, Dr. Ravindran was senior vice president of corporate development at The Medicines Company (MDCO), where he led multiple transactions totaling more than $2 billion in potential value. He began his biotech career as a venture capitalist for 10 years with Burrill & Company, Radius Ventures, and Asian Healthcare Fund. Dr. Ravindran was previously a practicing physician, board-certified in Internal Medicine, having completed his residency training at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. He received his bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, his doctorate in medicine from Jefferson Medical College, and his master’s of business administration from the Kellogg School of Management.

Dr. Ravindran joins Beatrice McQueen, Ph.D., on the Simcha leadership team, who was recently appointed chief operating officer and has led Simcha’s finance and operations since its inception.  Dr. McQueen has spent over 20 years in various operational roles, working to advance programs at leading organizations such as Amgen, PPD and Pfizer.

Bauer, having previously served as chief business officer of MyoKardia, is currently a venture partner with ARCH Venture Partners and SR One Capital Management. He and Dr. Ravindran join the Simcha board of directors with existing members Simeon George, M.D., CEO of SR One; Sean Li, Ph.D., of WuXi AppTec; Terry Rosen, Ph.D., CEO of Arcus Biosciences; and Aaron Ring, M.D., Ph.D., founder of Simcha Therapeutics.

About Simcha Therapeutics

Simcha Therapeutics is a clinical-stage immunobiology company pioneering the development of first-in-class engineered cytokine therapeutics with transformational promise for patients. The company is built on a foundation of scientific rigor to overcome biological challenges in clinically translatable pathways, exemplified by the first decoy-resistant interleukin-18 (IL-18). By unlocking the potential of IL-18, Simcha is developing its lead program (ST-067) as monotherapy and in combination with potentially several other anticancer agents.  ST-067 is currently being studied in a Phase 1/2 clinical trial, in patients with solid tumors and who have progressed on other immunotherapeutic agents. Beyond IL-18, the company’s underlying approach to immune-biology and cytokine engineering has broader potential to support disease-modifying therapeutic options for a range of significant diseases.  For more information, please visit www.simchatherapeutics.com.

Media Contact

Carolyn Hawley
Evoke Canale
Carolyn.hawley@evokegroup.com
619.849.5382

Simcha Therapeutics Raises $40 Million Series B Financing and Initiates Phase 1/2 Study to Evaluate Novel Interleukin-18 Variant in Cancer

Financing led by SR One; Proceeds to advance proprietary IL-18 variant through Phase 2 clinical trial ST-067 is a first-in-class “decoy resistant” IL-18 variant designed to overcome IL-18 binding in the tumor microenvironment

NEW HAVEN, Conn., Jan. 27, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Simcha Therapeutics, a biotechnology company developing cytokine-based cancer immunotherapies, today announced the closing of a $40 million Series B financing. The round was led by SR One Capital Management and joined by other new investors including BVF Partners, Samsara BioCapital, Rock Springs Capital, ArrowMark Partners, and Logos Capital. In conjunction with the financing, Simeon George, MD, Chief Executive Officer of SR One Capital Management, has joined the Simcha Therapeutics Board of Directors.

In addition, the Company has dosed the first patient in the Phase 1 portion of a first-in human multi-center Phase 1/2 clinical trial of its first drug candidate ST-067, a first-in-class “decoy-resistant” Interleukin-18 variant. The study is designed to evaluate the safety and bioactivity of ST-067 in a broad set of solid tumor types.

“We intend to become a leader in creating the next-generation of cytokine immunotherapies, and this investment from a phenomenal group of blue-chip firms represents a major endorsement of our progress to date and future potential,” said Aaron Ring, MD, PhD, Simcha Therapeutics Founder and Assistant Professor of Immunobiology at the Yale School of Medicine. “The Series B comes at a pivotal time in Simcha’s development as we have transitioned to a clinical-stage company and continue to build our leadership team.”

Dr. George added, “Simcha is developing highly innovative drugs that are completely unlike any other immunotherapeutic agent in development. We are proud to support the company in advancing this extremely promising agent for cancer patients.”

About Simcha Therapeutics

Simcha Therapeutics uses directed evolution to engineer novel cytokines designed to unlock the precision and power of the immune system. Simcha’s lead program, ST-067, is a designer IL-18 cytokine that has shown potent antitumor effects in animal models, both as a monotherapy and when combined with anti-PD-1 checkpoint inhibitors, as described in Nature in June 2020. A Phase 1 clinical trial commenced in the second half of 2021. Simcha was founded in 2018 by Aaron Ring, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Immunobiology at the Yale School of Medicine.