“This initial round of financing represents the first step in a journey that has the potential to provide a therapeutic dimension heretofore unobtainable.”
SQZ Biotech (SQZ), the pioneering company whose CellSqueeze platform enables a variety of materials to enter a cell with unprecedented efficacy, has drawn $5 million in Series A funding. Founded at MIT by Drs. Klavs Jensen, Robert Langer, and Armon Sharei, cell squeeze technology is a microfluidic chip that enables the delivery of materials into almost any cell type, including primary human-derived cells. SQZ maintains the exclusive worldwide license from MIT for CellSqueeze for any application.
This financing round follows a $1 million seed investment, as well as numerous grants and awards earned by the company since its inception in 2013. The funding will be used towards further development of the platform and exploration of clinical indications enabled by the technology’s superior cell engineering capabilities. Dr. Sharei, who serves as Chief Executive Officer, expressed his excitement about this groundbreaking technology:
“The ability to safely and simply introduce molecules to human cells has vast implications in our ability to engineer a patient’s cells,” said Dr. Sharei. “Our plans are to explore the potential of this technology to engineer patient-derived cells in numerous disease applications where one can use the power of the patient’s own immune system to combat disease.”
The funding culminates an exciting year in which SQZ achieved a number of significant milestones and was recognized for both its progress and promise. In 2015 alone, the company has issued two publications in PLOS ONE and Scientific Reports that explore applications of the technology in immunotherapies. Last October, the company was the grand prize winner of the 2014 Mass Challenge startup competition and the CASIS-Boeing Prize for Technology in Space, which looks to make use of the CellSqueeze platform on the International Space Station and in November, CellSqeeze was named one of the top 10 world changing ideas of 2014 by Scientific American.
As Dr. Jensen put it, “This collaboration has been a unique opportunity to apply microfluidic techniques to the long standing challenge of intracellular delivery. This platform has provided a paradigm shift in the delivery landscape because it has demonstrated up to 100x greater efficacy in some applications. Indeed, Dr. Langer noted, “By addressing one of the fundamental barriers to cell engineering, we believe this technology can potentially lead to a revolution in cell therapies.”
Since coming to the VDC, SQZ Biotech has almost doubled their workforce to 20 staff and contractors and centralized their operations to UMass Boston. When asked why they chose the VDC, Sharei said, “The VDC offers an excellent environment in which to build our company. Great facilities, support and community. The staff has also been phenomenal in their commitment to culture and understanding of the unique needs of a startup. They have a great track record with life science companies and we are inspired by all the innovative work our neighbors in the space are doing.”
The Series A funding round was led by Polaris Partners with participation from 20/20 Healthcare Partners and others. Amy Shulman, a partner at Polaris Partners, will serve as the Executive Chair of the SQZ Board of Directors. “SQZ is a unique company, powered by talented scientists, an exceptional discovery and a commitment to meaningful clinical translation,” said Schulman. “This initial round of financing represents the first step in a journey that has the potential to provide a therapeutic dimension heretofore unobtainable.”