Penn spinout Capstan Therapeutics Launches with Goal of Incorporating mRNA into CAR-T Cell Therapy

This week, Penn spinout Capstan Therapeutics launched, announcing it has raised $165 million to develop a new type of CAR-T therapy that incorporates mRNA.

Capstan Therapeutics was created with the mission of advancing cell-based therapies by enabling the engineering of cells within the body with payloads to benefit patients across multiple disease categories.

“Our ambition at Capstan is to invent new clinical paradigms through targeted in vivo reprogramming of cells,” said Laura Shawyer, CEO and president. “Our founding scientific and operational team is purpose-built to advance programs to the clinic that unite decades of combined experience in groundbreaking CAR therapies with the latest advances in mRNA delivery technology.”

CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) therapy is a cancer treatment in which a patient’s T cells, part of the immune system, are taken from their blood and changed in the laboratory so they will attack cancer cells.

Capstan is taking a new approach, where they will engineer cells directly within the body. The process will involve mRNA therapy that directs cells in the body to make proteins to prevent or fight disease.

The company’s initial efforts will focus on developing first-in-class in vivo CAR therapies, with a goal of delivering treatments in an outpatient setting for patients with cancer, fibrosis, and inflammation-related diseases that have no effective treatments. The company also plans to leverage its precision delivery and engineering technology to advance new therapies for certain blood disorders.

Capstan’s scientific founders are CAR-T pioneers Carl June, M.D., and Bruce Levine, Ph.D.; Drew Weissman, M.D., Ph.D., and Hamideh Parhiz, PharmD, Ph.D., experts in mRNA and targeted lipid nanoparticle (LNP) technologies; Steven Albelda, M.D., and Ellen Pure, A.B., Ph.D., who specialize in immunology and fibrosis; and Jon Epstein, M.D., and Haig Aghajanian, Ph.D., who specialize in preclinical translation.

Read the full Philadelphia Business Journal article here for more information.

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