TreeFrog Therapeutics, a privately held French-based biotech startup focused on developing safe and affordable stem cell-derived cell therapies for millions of patients, today announced the successful closing of a $75 million (€64M) Series B financing round, bringing the total funding to date to $83 million (€70M). The financing round was led by Bpifrance Large Venture, part of the French Public Investment Bank, joined by U.S. investment firm Leonard Green & Partners L.P., global pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb, and European venture capital team XAnge. In conjunction with the financing, independent board member Frederic Desdouits, PhD, has been appointed chief executive officer. It was also announced that Kevin Alessandri, PhD, co-founder, will relocate in early 2022 to Boston, MA, to lead the newly created U.S. subsidiary, TreeFrog Therapeutics Inc.
The latest funding round will be used to deploy biomimetic C-StemTM technology for clinical-grade manufacturing, grow and advance to the clinic a comprehensive pipeline of cell therapies, and finance the opening of technological hubs in Boston, MA, and Kobe, Japan.
C-StemTM offers unprecedented scale and quality, enabling the exponential growth of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) and their differentiation into ready-to-transplant microtissues in industrial bioreactors. Preliminary results, recently presented at the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy and International Society for Stem Cell Research annual meetings, suggest C-StemTM is the only technology capable of maintaining genomic integrity through large-scale hiPSC expansion. Based on best-in-class preclinical results in Parkinson’s disease, TreeFrog Therapeutics is preparing for a first-in-human trial in 2024, and intends to expand its pipeline of cell therapies through in-house programs and partnerships.
“With this Series B and the arrival of Frederic, TreeFrog Therapeutics enters a new dimension. Frederic brings in over 25 years of experience in managing fast-growing teams in biotech and pharma companies, both in France and in the U.S. We are now supported by investors with several billion dollars under management, as well as by a top-ten pharmaceutical company that successfully pioneered CAR-T cell therapies,” said Kevin Alessandri, PhD, co-founder and executive vice president USA, TreeFrog Therapeutics. “In short, funding, management and governance are now secured, as we embark on a very exciting journey, with the deployment of technological hubs in Kobe, Japan, and Boston, MA, and the prospect of treating our first patients in 2024.”
An independent board member of TreeFrog Therapeutics since 2020, Dr. Desdouits joins the company as CEO, after several years as CEO of PCAS, a Euronext Paris listed company, and managing director at Seqens CDMO, a world leader in small molecules manufacturing. Previously, Dr. Desdouits was executive vice president, Corporate Licensing, Acquisition and Market Intelligence, and director of U.S. Pharmaceuticals, Pierre Fabre Group. Dr. Desdouits also co-founded and served as managing partner at Bionest Partners, a consulting and transaction boutique specialized in healthcare and biotechnology.
“In just two years and, with only $7M in Series A funding, the TreeFrog Therapeutics team transitioned C-StemTM from the bench to an industrial technology applicable to any cell therapy. We demonstrated that C-StemTM outperforms all existing technologies for pluripotent stem cell expansion in terms of scale and quality. We also confirmed best-in-class preclinical data for our cell therapy program for Parkinson’s disease,” said new CEO, Frederic Desdouits, PhD. “The Series B financing allows us to dramatically increase our capacities and investments in research and development, to consolidate a pipeline of iPS-derived cell therapies targeting neurodegeneration, cardiac and metabolic disorders, as well as blood and immune-related diseases. Through therapeutic and technological partnerships, we intend to drive the adoption of C-StemTM by top biopharmaceutical players, so that we can bring the benefits of the technology, in terms of safety, efficacy and cost, to as many patients as possible.”
“The progress made by the company since its inception is truly amazing. In less than three years, TreeFrog Therapeutics has managed to build a world-leading technology suite for large-scale stem cell manufacturing, with the clear ambition to unlock the potential of cell therapies at an industry level and bring regenerative medicine products to the patients faster. We are excited to lead this round and team up with such an impressive management team and investors’ pool,” said Laurent Higueret, PharmD, Senior Investment Director, Bpifrance Large Venture.
“We are pleased to support TreeFrog Therapeutics in its mission to develop and expand the application for cell therapies. TreeFrog has made tremendous progress in developing C-StemTM and overcoming many of the bottlenecks in the manufacturing of induced pluripotent stem cells, that will substantially enhance the ability to manufacture cell therapies at scale. We are honored to partner with Kevin, Maxime and Frederic, and a leading group of investors to help accelerate TreeFrog’s success,” said Peter Zippelius, Partner, Leonard Green & Partners.
“We are excited to welcome Frederic to his new role at TreeFrog and thrilled to be part of this new board. Starting in 2019, TreeFrog had a breakthrough technology and a clear industrial vision to bring cell therapy to all. But more importantly, over the past two years, the team demonstrated outstanding execution capacities. We are confident that TreeFrog is going to drive a paradigm shift in cell therapy, as it becomes a more integrated player with an impact at every stage of the value chain,” said Guilhem de Vregille, Partner, Xange (Siparex Group).
As part of the Series B financing, Laurent Higueret (Bpifrance Large Venture) and Peter Zippelius (Leonard Green & Partners) will join the board, while Girish Pendse (Bristol Myers Squibb) will join the board as observer. The board will be chaired by Jean-Luc Treillou (co-founder).