SQZ Biotech

This young engineer landed $500 million to develop a new way to fight cancer

Industry:
Health
Location:
BostonMA 
Founded:
2013
Employees:
25
Raised:
$6 M

When Armon Sharei was a chemical engineering PhD student at MIT in 2008, he joined a team toiling to transfer compounds into living cells. It was a difficult task, but one that could help scientists research diseases and discover new drugs. The team's initial mechanism for doing this didn't work, but in the process of trying it, Sharei stumbled upon a new one, for which he's been granted most of his 10 patents. That technology became the basis for SQZ Biotech, the company he co-founded with the pioneering professors he worked for: Klavs Jensen, the school's head of chemical engineering, and Robert Langer, a renowned bioengineer and serial entrepreneur. SQZ (pronounced "squeeze") raised $1 million in seed funding from angel investors in 2014, followed the next year by $5 million in venture money from Polaris Partners, 20/20 Healthcare Partners, and two private offices. In December, SQZ partnered with global pharmaceutical firm F. Hoffmann-La Roche in a deal that could be worth $500 million--including a large undisclosed upfront payment, and additional sums when SQZ meets certain milestones--to speed development of its technology to inject immune cells with a protein that would activate a killer-T-cell response to fight off cancer.
Note: All data as of 1/31/16

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