Hutch News

Frequently asked questions about Juno Therapeutics

Dec. 3, 2013

What is Juno?
Juno Therapeutics Inc. is a Seattle-based biotech company focused on developing adoptive T-cell therapies aimed at curing a broad range of cancers.

Who are Juno’s founders?
Juno brings together two world leaders in this type of therapy, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Research Center in New York, along with renowned pediatric partner Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

Why are these three institutions coming together to launch this commercial venture?
Given the enormous potential of adoptive T-cell therapies to save lives, it is critical that research and clinical testing move forward as quickly as possible. In today’s environment of more limited public funding for scientific research, creating a commercial enterprise -- backed by experienced, committed investment partners and led by seasoned managers -- offers the best path toward that goal.

How much funding does Juno have?
Juno was launched with $120 million in private investment funding, making it one of the largest Series A biotech startups in history. Juno’s primary investors are ARCH Venture Partners and the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Why did Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center participate in the startup of a biotech company?
In the past, the Hutch has licensed its intellectual property to other entities, including those it helped to start. Licensing the cutting-edge research done at Fred Hutch and its partner institutions to Juno, which these entities helped to establish, allows for the incubation and commercialization of these technologies using a funding model that is not dependent on grants and donations. It has the potential to provide T-cell immunotherapy treatments for patients worldwide more quickly and efficiently than using the traditional grant funding model.

What are T cells?
T cells are a type of white blood cells that help protect the body from infection. They have unique receptors that recognize antigens (foreign proteins) on the surface of diseased cells and bind to those proteins to initiate destruction of the diseased cells.

What is adoptive T-cell therapy?
Adoptive T-cell therapy uses immune cells (T cells) that are taken from a patient’s own blood, genetically modified to express proteins that will recognize and bind to cancerous cells, and then infused back into the patient. Adoptive T-cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy, defined as any therapy that harnesses the body’s immune system to fight disease.

What types of cancers will Juno focus on?
Juno initially will focus on blood cancers including leukemia, acute and aggressive lymphomas, and B-cell lymphomas. In the future, the company hopes to expand its therapies to treat solid-tumor cancers as well.

What type of patients will be treated by Juno therapies?
Juno’s therapies are aimed at patients with advanced disease who have not had success with chemotherapy, radiation and transplants.

How many trial participants have been treated and how are they doing?
To date, about two dozen patients have been treated by the three institutions. We have seen promising outcomes so far including many cases of remission in patients with advanced stages of cancer. Also, the therapies could allow patients to avoid the side effects and long-term toxicity of chemotherapy and radiation.

More on Juno:

Three cancer research powerhouses form immunotherapy startup

Juno Therapeutics news release

 

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