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Seneca Therapeutics raises $5 million, eyes new funding round

Cindi Sutera | Published on 1/4/2022
Seneca Therapeutics has raised $5 million in a debt financing deal that will enable the immunotherapy company to advance its experimental solid cancer treatments. Founded in 2018 by Paul Hallenback, Seneca has now raised about $8 million since its inception.

James Hussey, the company's CEO, said a Series B round is being planned for late in the first quarter of 2022. Hussey said the $5 million debt financing involves the sale of convertible notes and values Seneca at $35 million.

Investors included Keiretsu Forum Mid-Atlantic, an angel investor network led by Howard Lubert, and Mid-Atlantic Bio Angels. Seneca lists its address as Blue Bell, but Hussey said the company is operating virtually with four employees — all senior leaders who combined have more than 100-plus years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry — augmented by contractors.

Hussey said Seneca plans to use the proceeds from the debt financing to advance its oncolytic immunotherapeutics based on the Seneca Valley Virus (SVV-001) into the clinic. SVV-001, he said, targets solid tumors that express a cell membrane protein known as TEM8 (tumor endothelial marker-8), a common solid tumor marker.

"About 60% of all solid tumors express TEM8," Hussey said. Oncolytic viruses, which can occur naturally or be made in the lab, are a type of virus that infects and breaks down cancer cells, but does not harm normal cells. Hallenbeck, who also serves as Seneca's president and chief scientific officer, is a former Novartis scientist who previously founded Malvern-based Neotropix.

He first discovered SVV-001 while at Novartis in 2001. Neotropix is the predecessor company to Seneca. Neotropix was developing SVV-001 but ran out of funding during the 2008-2009 economic downturn. Seneca Therapeutics acquired all the SVV-001 assets from Neotropix.

Written by John George Senior Reporter Philadelphia Business Journal