Cell Therapy Startup Cellares Closes an $82 Million Funding Round

By Mariliana Fotopoulou Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Life science startup company Cellares, which focuses on cell therapy, announced Wednesday it closed an $82 million funding round headed by new backer Decheng Capital and existing investor Eclipse Ventures.

Embryonic stem cells.

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The startup company said it would use the new funds to make business investments in the development of “Cell Shuttle” — a large device designed to automate the manufacturing of cell therapy drugs, said Fabian Gerlinghaus, founder and CEO of the startup company.

Cellares is a San Francisco, California-based cell therapy manufacturing startup founded in 2019. The life science business is developing a one-of-a-kind automated cell therapy manufacturing solution that could make those therapies much more affordable and increase their availability.

The device contains a cartridge where patients’ cells are placed. The machine then initiates a fully automated process to produce a cell therapy drug to be infused back into the patient, explained Gerlinghaus.

The Cell Shuttle is also able to create CAR-T therapies, which are currently used to treat blood cancers by modifying and growing patients’ immune system cells to fight cancer cells.

“There are more than 450,000 patients today who could potentially benefit from CAR-T cell therapies, a number expected to grow into the millions in a few years’ time. Less than 1% of these patients are able to get access to these therapies, due to a lack of scalable cell manufacturing technologies,” said Gerlinghaus.

Even though cell therapy is “one of the hottest areas for biotech” for venture capital (VC), manufacturing those drugs is a great issue as it is typically performed manually in expensive facilities, said Victor Tong, one of the partners at VC business Decheng Capital.

Today, the majority of cell therapies take a patient’s cells, modify them, and re-infuse them back into the patient, resulting in immense costs, said Gerlinghaus.

However, Cellares’s solutions are able to produce cell therapy drugs for 10 patients at the same time, cutting costs by 75%. The process also reduces the time between apheresis and product delivery and shortens time to market by roughly one to two years due to its single-platform approach.

“The Cellares Cell Shuttle is a highly anticipated solution that empowers drug developers to scale out to meet a growing patient demand for cell therapies,” said Dr. Carl June, a US immunologist and oncologist.

The potential for the automated manufacturing process of cell therapies is huge as hundreds of startup companies around the world are working to develop their own cell therapies, and Cellares is “leading the way,” added Tong.

Devices developed by the company are still not fully operational. The life science business is currently making certain tweaks to the technology through its business partnerships with PACT Pharma, a cancer cell therapy startup, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The company hopes to commercialize its Cell Shuttles in 2023.


Cellares, a San Francisco-based life science startup company that develops a unique automated cell therapy solution, said it raised $83 million in a new business funding round led by Decheng Capital and Eclipse Ventures. The company said it will use the proceeds to invest in a “one-of-a-kind” cell therapy device, the “Cell Shuttle”, which is set to launch in 2023.

About the Author

Headshot of Mariliana Fotopoulou

Mariliana has an MSC in Consumer Analytics and Business Strategy. She has a special interest in fast-moving industries and Big Data.

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