Inimmune, a Missoula-based biotech company founded by nationally recognized vaccine scientists that has been working on a vaccine for COVID-19, announced today that it has raised $22 million in Series A funding led by Two Bear Capital, a venture-capital firm founded by Whitefish philanthropist Mike Goguen.
The firm plans to use the Series A investment to advance at least two late-stage pre-clinical drug candidates in oncology and allergy through Phase I human clinical trials.
The $22 million is believed to be largest round of Series A funding in state history, according to Two Bear Capital Chief Marketing Officer Liz Marchi, who has been involved in equity capital in Montana for decades.
Inimmune, which specializes in developing immune therapies and components for more effective vaccines, also announced on July 9 that Goguen is joining the firm’s board of directors.
“We are excited to partner with Two Bear Capital for this Series A investment,” said Dr. Jay Evans, Inimmune’s cofounder, president and CEO, as well as the director of the University of Montana’s Center for Translational Medicine and a research professor in biological sciences. “We could have looked outside of Montana for investors but were happy to find a local VC firm that connected with our vision to grow a world-class biotech company right here in Montana.”
A press release said Inimmune is known for “its innovative approach to treatments leveraging the immune system, especially its development of novel adjuvants, which are compounds added to therapies to improve or direct an immune response.” The firm notes that adjuvants are an “important component in safe, effective vaccines.”
The biotech company has partnered with UM in the development of a vaccine against COVID-19. It is also advancing immune-based therapies for a “variety of other dangerous emerging pathogens, such as antibiotic resistant infections.”
“Effectively harnessing the incredible power of the human immune system has the potential to prevent or cure the most devastating diseases faced by humanity – from COVID-19, to cancer, to neurodegenerative diseases and more — and the need for solutions today is more urgent than ever,” Goguen said in a statement.
“The team at Inimmune combines world-class immunology and vaccine expertise, proven track records and a passion for solving some of the most important medical crises of our time. We are honored to be partners with them as they advance their promising therapies to the next level.”
Inimmune was founded in 2016 by Evans and Drs. Kendal Ryter, Helene Bazin-Lee and David Burkhart, along with 11 other scientists from GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical giant that had closed its research development center in Hamilton and left a team of respected vaccine researchers out of work. The founders established a partnership with UM and launched Inimmune in conjunction with forming the college’s Center for Translational Medicine to maintain and expand scientific research in Montana.
“I don’t know of another group in the world that has the capacity we do,” Evans said in an April interview. “When we say that we’re a world-class vaccine discovery and development team, I don’t think that’s an overstatement.”
In addition to the cofounders, Inimmune employs an experienced team of chemists, immunologists and formulation scientists with a track record of notable achievements in synthetic molecule development, immunology and drug delivery. The company has raised more than $12 million in research grants and contracts since 2016, including a recent $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Inimmune’s laboratories and offices are housed in the Montana Technology Enterprise Center (MonTEC) in Missoula.
Goguen founded Two Bear Capital in 2019 after previously spending 20 years at Sequoia Capital, one of the world’s leading venture-capital firms based in Silicon Valley. The Montana-based venture capital firm has quickly emerged as a leader in the state’s biotech industry.
Two Bear Capital has associates in Whitefish, the Bay Area of California and San Diego. It invests in early-stage companies with “disruptive innovations at the intersections of biotech, bioinformatics, machine learning/AI and cybersecurity that deliver dramatically better solutions to the most critical problems affecting human health, security and wellness.”