Tokyo, Japan, November 24, 2023 – CellFiber Co., Ltd., a biotech company developing plug-and-play bio-manufacturing solutions using its unique cell culture platform technology, announced that it has raised US$5.5 million from the investors listed below.
- JAFCO V7 and JAFCO SV7-S funds managed by JAFCO Group Inc. (hereinafter "JAFCO")
- UMI No. 3 Fund managed by Universal Materials Incubator Corporation (hereinafter "UMI")
- FTI Fund No. 3 managed by Fast Track Initiative, Inc. (hereinafter "FTI")
- Realtech Fund operated by Realtech Holdings Corporation (hereinafter "RTF")
- Chiba Dojo Fund (hereinafter "Chiba Dojo")
CellFiber, a startup from the University of Tokyo, is working towards developing a scale-up cell manufacturing platform using the "CellFiberTM" technology (described below) to address the current bottleneck in the cell and gene therapy industry. While cell therapy※1 has grown in popularity and effectiveness particularly in the field of regenerative medicine and cancer immunotherapy, the manufacturing process still relies heavily on manual labor. Closing and streamlining the manufacturing process is an imminent issue. CellFiber aims to facilitate the large-scale production of cellular products in a shorter timeline and smaller footprint, using its proprietary culture technology, thereby lowering the COGs in cell and gene therapy manufacturing, making it accessible to more patients.
CellFiberTM technology is a technique for encapsulating and culturing cells in hollow hydrogel※2 tubes as thin as a hair. The hydrogel wall protects the cells inside while preventing excessive aggregation, cells can therefore be maintained for a longer period of time compared to conventional culture methods such as flat culture in culture dishes or suspension culture using bioreactors. Furthermore, when a substance is secreted from cells within the tube, only that substance is released outside the tube, making it a useful fundamental technology for substance production. CellFiberTM technology can be used to culture cells at high densities whilst maintaining its qualities, thus shortening the cell production process.
CellFiber has been working on the development of scale-up cell culture technology by utilizing funds raised from investors and competitive funds. Following the successful unveiling of the cGMP Extruder prototype in collaboration with Hitachi, Ltd. in October 2023, the funds raised will be used in the technological advancement for the scale-up manufacturing of clinical grade cells and to secure human resources for a global presence.
Chimeric antigen receptor-expressing T cell (CAR-T) therapy has entered the commercialization phase, and cellular medicine is considered to have reached the next phase of business, but there are still challenges to be overcome for mass production. CellFiber has a unique technology that allows us to supply large volumes of highly functional cells at the GMP level. The pharmaceutical industry is only viable when "superior technology" is delivered to as many markets as possible, i.e., in a form that is demanded by patients. Jafco will do its utmost to support the commercialization of pharmaceutical-grade cell mass production technology and the establishment of a next-generation supply chain that delivers more appropriate medical care to patients on a global scale. (Mr. Taira Kobayashi, Principal)
We expect that CellFiber's "CellFiberTM" technology could become the de facto standard for efficient production of therapeutic cells toward the spread of cell therapy, which is expected to become a next-generation medicine. Based on the unique technology created by the Takeuchi Laboratory of the University of Tokyo, the business has been promoted and the fundamental technology has been established under the leadership of Mr. Yanagisawa and Ms. Adachi. The addition of strong management members has further strengthened the organization's capabilities, and we have invested in the company based on our judgment that the feasibility of developing this technology on a global scale has increased. We will do our utmost to support the company as it moves toward a world where everyone can enjoy the benefits of cell therapy.
We are very pleased to participate as a syndicate in this round of financing for CellFiber's innovative cell manufacturing technology. We are confident that CellFiber's cell mass culture technology will be a game changer in the current environment where cell handling and manufacturing bottlenecks are severely limiting development and manufacturing cost reductions, and we are confident that CellFiber's talented team will be able to accomplish this. FTI will fully support this challenge by leveraging its knowledge in the drug discovery area.
As we shift from the stage of developing basic technologies to the stage of manufacturing cells for the market, we are very pleased to see that expectations for CellFiber are growing, not only because of the participation of strong members with experience in establishing and operating contract manufacturing organizations in the cellular drug field, but also because of the recognition we have received from a number of investors. We are very pleased to see the growing expectations for CellFiber.
As the business moves into a new phase, we will continue to do our utmost to help CellFiber become a stronger team and to ensure that the cells produced by the fiber are delivered to patients.
We are pleased to make this investment because we share CellFiber's desire to make cell therapy accessible to everyone.
We see great potential not only in having the basis for mass culture technology for cellular medicines, which is attracting worldwide attention, but also in our management team and employees who can expand this technology not only in Japan but also overseas.
Chiba Dojo, a community of entrepreneurs, will provide maximum support for the realization of CellFiber's mission. (Mr. Takaki Ishii, Co-Partner, Chiba Dojo Fund)