Case Study
January 30, 2020

Sleeper Cells

HiberCell is creating new cancer treatments that target dormant tumor cells that have the potential to flare up into new metastatic disease long after the original tumors have been eradicated.

Dormant tumor cells can linger in distant organs and tissues for years after the original tumors have been removed and treated. Patients in remission are forever vulnerable to recurrence and can face repeated rounds of treatment should their cancer re-emerge or spread. Even when primary tumors are surgically removed and a patient is in remission, a single residual dormant disseminated tumor cell (DTC) can cause relapse and metastatic disease. Despite significant advances in treatment of primary tumors, metastatic cancer remains a leading cause of solid cancer mortality.

Today, scientists at HiberCell are exploring promising new techniques that target dormant cells, seeking them out through specific biomarkers and disabling them with a prioritized pipeline of therapies. HiberCell is focused on better defining the prevalence of dormant DTCs across several tumor types via a relationship-based collaborative effort that will focus on detecting, isolating and annotating these cells from patient material.

“HiberCell is the foundational tumor dormancy company,” said Alan Rigby, Ph.D., co-founder, president and Chief Executive Officer. “We know that dormant disseminated tumor cells are critical drivers of cancer metastasis. We believe that this approach provides a differentiated opportunity to change the paradigm of cancer treatment.”

The company is considered to be the first to exclusively focus on the detection and treatment of dormant tumor cells, potentially transforming how cancer is treated in the long term.

HiberCell was founded in New York City in February 2019 by ARCH Venture Partners, Dr. Rigby, Julio Aguirre-Ghiso, Ph.D., a professor at The Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Ari Nowacek, M.D., Ph.D., and VP of operations and business development.

Goodwin has advised HiberCell from its very beginning on matters including organization, venture financings, debt financing, licensing and intellectual property.

At its launch, HiberCell received nearly $65 million in one of the largest series A financings of a New York City biotech company with investments from ARCH Venture Partners and 6 Dimensions Capital.

HiberCell also received an investment from the NYC Life Sciences Fund, established by the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

“HiberCell exemplifies the high caliber innovation that New York’s life sciences ecosystem can support and foster,” said James Patchett, president and CEO of NYCEDC. “The HiberCell team has the scientific and financial backing needed to advance cutting-edge science and make a meaningful difference in cancer patients’ lives. NYCEDC is proud to foster that kind of work here in New York City.”