Stellanova Therapeutics now has enough fuel to start treating the tumor microenvironment with its “new star.” Sporos Bioventures led a $15.5 million Series A investment for the Houston-based preclinical biotech. The funds will be used to get Stellanova’s lead antibody into the clinic, develop a discovery platform, and expand the team, including senior recruitment later this year.
After serving as the life sciences and biotech consultancy creator, Emmanuelle Schuler, Ph.D., joins Stellanova as founding CEO as part of the funding. She also led Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS incubator in Houston, where Stellanova was incubated and is now housed. In an interview, Schuler said she was drawn to Stellanova Therapeutics because the biotech is tackling a “really uncharted area in the realm of cancer treatment.” DKK3, a gene produced by cancer-associated fibroblast cells, is the target of Stellanova’s primary candidate.
Stellanova’s antibody candidate aims to neutralize DKK3, a protein released by fibroblast cells that promotes cancer’s out-of-control growth. In a joint interview with Schuler, co-founder Rosa Hwang, M.D., described the tumor microenvironment as a complex ecology surrounding cancer cells. While Stellanova Therapeutics first focus is on pancreatic and triple-negative breast cancers, Hwang believes the business might expand into other cancers.
Hwang added, “We’re specifically focused on these fibroblasts that are associated with cancers, and historically, to date, I think most scientists and most biotech companies are focused on targeting the cancer cells themselves.”