Third Rock Ventures, LLC announced the formation of Jounce Therapeutics, Inc. with a $47 million Series A financing of the company. Jounce is focused on the discovery and development of first-in-class cancer immunotherapies designed to harness the patient’s immune system to seek out and attack cancerous cells and tumors. This transformational approach, as compared to more traditional approaches of targeting the tumor directly, has the potential to drive durable responses to treatment, extending and improving patients’ quality of life for years.
Jounce was founded by world leaders in the fields of immunobiology, cancer biology and clinical and translational medicine – James P. Allison, Ph.D., chair, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Department of Immunology, whose research led to the clinical development of ipilimumab (Yervoy™); Padmanee (Pam) Sharma, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor, department of genitourinary medical oncology, MD Anderson Cancer Center; Thomas F. Gajewski, M.D., Ph.D., professor, departments of pathology and medicine, University of Chicago; Drew Pardoll, M.D., Ph.D., professor and co-director, cancer immunology and hematopoiesis program, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University; and Louis M. Weiner, M.D., director, Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, professor and chair, department of oncology, Georgetown University Medical Center. Additionally, Robert Schreiber, Ph.D., alumni endowed professor of pathology and immunology and professor of molecular microbiology at the Washington University School of Medicine, is serving as a special adviser to the company.
“This is an exciting time as the promise of cancer immunotherapy is beginning to be realized. With key recent advances in cancer immunotherapy, we have gained invaluable insights into how the immune system recognizes tumors and a better understanding of effective cancer immunotherapy discovery and development,” said Dr. Allison. “Jounce has brought together an expert team and powerful capabilities to discover and develop novel treatments that harness the power of the immune system, marking a significant step forward in the way we treat cancer.”
Jounce’s proprietary product engine enables the exploration of multiple mechanisms of action and a broad spectrum of targets. The company’s capabilities and expertise include tumor immunobiology, antibody discovery and optimization and integrated translational science capabilities, including novel in vivo tumor model systems and other clinically-based approaches. Jounce is leveraging these capabilities to build a robust pipeline of first-in-class biologic product candidates. The Series A financing enables the company to build its product engine and rapidly advance its lead programs to the clinic.
“Our goal at Third Rock Ventures is to launch and build companies that dramatically impact and improve patients’ lives. Cancer immunotherapies have shown the potential to not just incrementally enhance patients’ quality of life, but to significantly improve their long-term survival,” said Cary Pfeffer, M.D., interim chief executive officer of Jounce and partner at Third Rock Ventures. “Jounce has assembled a world-leading team that is at the forefront of the new understanding of the power and potential of cancer immunotherapies. We are uniquely positioned to rapidly develop our pipeline and, ultimately, deliver on our goal of improving patients’ lives.”
In addition to Dr. Pfeffer, a proven entrepreneur with more than 20 years of business development and transaction experience, the Jounce Therapeutics founding management team includes Robert Tepper, M.D., interim chief scientific officer, partner at Third Rock Ventures and former president of R&D at Millennium Pharmaceuticals; Robert Kamen, Ph.D., interim chief technology officer, entrepreneur-in-residence at Third Rock Ventures and former president of Abbott Bioresearch Center and Michael Briskin, Ph.D., vice president, research, and former senior director of immunology at Merrimack Pharmaceuticals. Also joining the company is Jigar Raythatha, chief business officer, former head of corporate development at Constellation Pharmaceuticals.