Cancer-fighting startup Turnstone Biologics raises US$80M series-D investment

Cancer cells
Cancer cells

One of Ottawa’s most highly-touted biotech startups has secured the city’s largest venture capital deal in nearly three years.

Turnstone Biologics was cofounded by three Ontario physicians including Dr. John Bell of the Ottawa Hospital and is developing cancer-fighting viruses. On Wednesday, the firm said it had completed a US$80-million series-D funding round led by PFM Health Sciences and Point72.

“This oversubscribed financing will allow us to advance our vision to benefit millions of cancer patients underserved by current treatment options,” said Turnstone president and CEO Sammy Farah in a statement.

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Turnstone, which also maintains offices in New York, where Farah is based, and San Diego, has already raised more than $50 million as it develops groundbreaking treatments that use the body’s own immune system to battle cancer. The firm is widely regarded as a leader in the emerging field of immunotherapy, in which viruses that attack malignant tumours are administered to patients, and has made multiple appearances on lists ranking Canada’s highest-potential private firms.

Turnstone says it will use the proceeds from the financing to advance its pipeline of therapeutic programs. Its lead oncolytic virus candidate is currently in clinical trials while a second therapy candidate is expected to enter clinical development in early 2022.

Venture capital is an important source of capital for biotech firms, which generally must put products through years of rigorous testing before they are approved for sale to the public.

“Developing new therapies is extremely costly, so we also need to engage the private sector to take our research to the next level,” Dr. Bell explained in an earlier statement.

The US$80 million deal is the largest funding round for an Ottawa company since Assent Compliance’s $160 million series-C round in October 2018. It also comes at a time when the amount of money flowing to Ottawa-based companies is on a downward slide.

In addition to PFM Health Sciences and Point72, disclosed investors in Turnstone Biologics’ latest funding round included Eventide Asset Management, Surveyor Capital, Ridgeback Capital Investments, Takeda Ventures, CaaS Capital, JM Family Enterprises, Northleaf Capital Partners, 404 Bio, Versant Ventures, OrbiMed, F-Prime Capital, Sectoral Asset Management, Sixty Degree Capital, Brace Pharma Capital and Teralys Capital.

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