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UPMC Launches Novasenta to Develop Targeted Immunotherapy Drugs for Cancer

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As part of its commitment to investing in translational science that significantly improves the lives of patients, UPMC has launched Novasenta, a drug discovery and development company seeking novel and effective treatments for cancer.

Mani Mohindru, Ph.D., Novasenta CEOBased on years of cancer research by renowned University of Pittsburgh scientists and a machine-learning-enabled platform that drives the discovery of potential drug targets, Novasenta focuses on the tumor microenvironment – or the ecosystem that surrounds and constantly interacts with the tumor inside the body – to develop immunotherapies.

“Novasenta has the ability to analyze the tumor microenvironment of a wide variety of cancers due to our strong research and clinical relationships with Pitt and UPMC,” said Mani Mohindru, Ph.D., Novasenta’s recently hired chief executive officer and a veteran biotechnology leader. “This allows us to capitalize on the critical relationship between disease, immune response and metabolism when assessing the tumor microenvironment for the discovery of novel druggable targets, which will help us develop treatments that benefit patients with cancer.”

Co-founded in late 2018 by Robert Ferris, M.D., Ph.D., Dario Vignali, Ph.D., and Greg Delgoffe, Ph.D., all of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and Pitt, Novasenta is currently focused on T-cell targets and rapidly advancing programs with the goal of launching its first clinical trial by the end of 2023.

“We are building on decades of successful research from our founders in the fields of tumor biology, immunology, computational biology and drug discovery. Our expanding team brings a broad set of skills and expertise to our unique platform, allowing us to integrate a wide range of relevant disease data into our discovery and validation processes to develop more effective cancer therapies,” added Mohindru.

UPMC invested in Novasenta through the health system’s innovation and venture capital arm, UPMC Enterprises, in a $20 million seed round. Novasenta is one of three local life science start-ups incubated by UPMC Enterprises in collaboration with Pitt over the last four years and is adding to a growing number of preclinical development programs this partnership is rapidly advancing. Today, the company is celebrating the opening of its new office and laboratory space at The Riviera in Pittsburgh’s South Oakland neighborhood, part of a growing hub of biomedical activity in the city.

“As both a caregiver and investor, UPMC is excited about the characteristics that make Novasenta so promising: Unmatched clinical and scientific expertise paired with computational innovation have the potential to identify transformative therapies in record time,” said Jeanne Cunicelli, president of UPMC Enterprises. “The launch of this company will benefit not only our region but cancer patients everywhere.”

Visit the Novasenta website for additional information.