Series A financing led by Catalio Capital Management, Third Rock Ventures and Novo Holdings

Clasp Therapeutics, a biotechnology company pioneering precision immuno-oncology through next-generation T cell engagers (TCEs), has announced its official launch this month, backed by $150 million in financing. Clasp seeks to address the unmet needs of cancer patients who do not respond to existing treatments.

Clasp leverages research from principal investigators at Johns Hopkins Medicine, including cancer geneticist Bert Vogelstein, M.D., Professor of Oncology, Pathology, Molecular Biology and Genetics, and immuno-oncology pioneer Drew Pardoll, M.D., Ph.D. , Director, Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, and Professor of Oncology.

Their vision of targeting cancer cells for destruction by the immune system has paved the way for Clasp’s novel approach. The researchers’ expertise in human leukocyte antigens (HLA)-antibody interactions enables the engineering of advanced TCEs with newfound specificity, precisely targeting common oncogenic mutations.

Clasp is developing modular patient-specific and tumor-specific TCEs that harness a patient’s various T cell-types to destroy tumors bearing specific driver mutations, including many cancers that are unresponsive to standard immuno-oncology treatments. The company’s TCEs, designed as bispecific antibody-like molecules, bind both a tumor-specific mutant peptide and a T cell with absolute specificity, ensuring immune activation against the tumor while sparing normal tissue. These oncogenes promote the production of cancer-specific peptides that adorn the surface of tumor cells within the framework of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) system—an integral component of the body’s self-recognition mechanism. “What we are targeting is the mutated peptide in the context of HLA presentation,” explains Rob Ross, Clasp’s CEO. “For a patient to be eligible for treatment, their tumor must exhibit both the mutation and the requisite HLA phenotype.”

This innovative strategy allows Clasp to engineer a multitude of off-the-shelf variations of the therapy tailored to different HLA phenotypes, each honing in on distinct oncogenes. Notably, owing to their precise targeting of genes pivotal to tumor oncogenicity, Clasp anticipates a reduced propensity for the development of resistance among patients.

While Clasp has yet to unveil specific cancer targets, the company’s current focal point is predominantly solid tumors. There is no definitive timeline for the start of human trials; however, the current financial support will enable the gathering clinical data before necessitating additional funding.

The funding round was led by Catalio Capital Management, Third Rock Ventures, and Novo Holdings, with contributions from Vivo Capital, Cure Ventures, Blackbird BioVentures, Pictet Alternative Advisors, American Cancer Society’s Bright Edge, and Alexandria Venture Investments.

Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures facilitated the commercialization of Clasp’s innovative platform, which offers off-the-shelf, antibody-like medicines that can precisely target a wide range of challenging tumor types.