San Francisco - January 16th, 2022
I’m excited to announce a major milestone for my company, Xcellbio — we just completed our series B financing, raising a total of $27.5 million that will allow us to grow more quickly. On a personal level, the real victory here goes well beyond the money. It’s validation of a journey that began when I was just a teenager.
During my high school and early college years, I lost three grandparents to cancer. My grandfather on my father’s side was an engineer and an entrepreneur who bootstrapped his own company and built it into a thriving business. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a doctor whose garden was testament to his amazing green thumb. And my grandmother on my father’s side was an English teacher who read several newspapers each day, flagging typos and grammatical errors as she went. I remember all three as whip-smart — and taken from us too soon.
Their deaths inspired my mission to help fight cancer. I chose to pursue molecular biology and engaged in cancer research. As an undergrad, I taught a class about cancer. My career path has had twists and turns, but along the way I have always tried to contribute to better diagnosis and treatment for people with cancer. The urgency in this endeavor has become all the more paramount with the diagnosis of my mother with breast cancer. With the help of a great healthcare team at the Cleveland Clinic, she’s been in remission for more than four years now and is well on the road to putting this chapter of her life behind her.
In 2012 I followed my grandfather’s entrepreneurial spirit and co-founded Xcellbio. Our AVATAR technology platform was designed as a better way to grow cells, using sophisticated sensors and other tools to introduce levels of rigor and precision that had never been possible before. The idea was simple: if we could more realistically represent the native environment of these cells, scientists would be able to glean more accurate insights about them. This was just as true for our initial target — circulating tumor cells — as it is with any cell population.
In the past few years, we have come to appreciate how effective our platform is for the development of cell and gene therapies. This new area of focus began with customer feedback and key collaborations with companies looking to deploy our AVATAR technology for the study of immune cells. Over time, that informed the new system we’re developing: the benchtop KALI Cell Foundry, designed to support the next generation of cell therapy manufacturing.
Our systems allow for precise measurement and monitoring of the health and function of a cell population. For cell therapies, it’s critical to know that the cells being administered to a patient are functionally and persistently potent. By monitoring these cells during cell production and tailoring conditions for each patient with Xcellbio technology, it is possible to recover a population that’s not expanding well, or to accelerate a population and shorten the production time for use in a patient, all while managing cellular health. We allow users to monitor quantity and quality so cell therapies can have the potency and persistence needed for optimal patient outcomes.
Already, our cell and gene therapy company customers have found Xcellbio systems to be valuable when used in clinical trials; some are using our systems to supply key functional release criteria in GMP settings. I believe that it will be possible to expand access to these life-saving therapies by improving cell quality and quantity through the manufacturing process — perhaps even expanding cell therapy use to patients with solid tumors, representing the vast majority of cancers which to date have seen little success with cell therapies. With Xcell’s approach, we can condition these therapies to become better, more persistent, and more potent cancer killers.
As we look ahead in this new year, I see enormous opportunity to have the impact on cancer research and patient care that I have been aiming at since losing my grandparents. We will be scaling our Mission Bay-based business in 2022. If you’re as passionate about biology, technology, and cancer as I am, and want to be part of building the leading edge of technologies for fighting cancer, please reach out — I’d love to see if you’re a fit with our team.