A startup trying to get the human body to fight cancer just filed for an IPO

T-cells immune system cancer immunotherapyUniversity of Pennsylvania via Microbe World / FlickrIn this 2011 image, tiny beads (yellow) are used to force T-cells to divide before they are given to leukemia patients.

One biotech startup is hitting 2017 with a running start.

Cancer drug developer Jounce Therapeutics filed for an initial public offering on Dec. 30.

The filing includes a target of $75 million in the public offering, though that’s a placeholder and likely to change.

The filing is coming off a busy year for Jounce. In July, biotech company Celgene invested $261 million in Jounce in a deal that could ultimately be worth as much as $2.5 billion.

Jounce is developing drugs that harness the immune system to better attack cancer cells, a treatment often referred to as cancer immunotherapy or immuno-oncology.

It’s an area that’s generated a lot of interest in the last few years. In 2015 alone, more than $10.9 billion was spent in immuno-oncology deals and partnerships.

Jounce first opened its doors in 2013, and kicked off its first round of human trials for a drug called JTX-2011 in September 2016. JTX-2011 is designed to accelerate the immune system so it goes after cancer cells. Jounce is also looking at other ways to approach the immune system that don’t just draw on what we already know about immune responses, an approach Jounce CEO Richard Murray calls “I-O 2.0.”

That’s because some of the immuno-oncology (sometimes known as I-O), drugs that are available right now don’t work for everyone. For example, for advanced stages of melanoma, the number of people still alive after two years was about 35%, compared to 29.7% over the same time for those taking chemotherapy.

Murray told Business Insider in July that Jounce hoped to change that by looking at tumours and analysing patients who are participating in clinical trials so the company will have a clear picture of what works and what doesn’t for individual patients.

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