Carisma Therapeutics raised nearly $60M in Series A funding. Now what?

What's ahead for the cell therapy startup working out of the now-full BioLabs@CIC.

Lab space at BioLabs@CIC.

(Photo by Julie Zeglen)

Carisma Therapeutics, working on a cellular therapy aimed at fighting solid tumors, is planning for growth: The University City company is hoping to hire about 10 more employees by the end of the year after raising nearly $60 million, its CEO told

The company, formerly known as CARMA Therapeutics, initially raised $53 million during its Series A round last year, partly through the University of Pennsylvania, although the institution didn’t share how much it contributed.

But Carisma picked up a few million more at the end of last year, CEO Steven Kelly said. The company extended its Series A, bringing in about $6 million more, led by AbbVie Ventures and HealthCap. The funding will be put toward “full research and development capabilities,” Kelly said, as well as hiring to reach about 30 employees total.

Carisma was the first to occupy space in the BioLabs@CIC shortly after it opened in December 2018 after previously working out of the Princeton BioLabs. It was touted as a darling of the lab space during a May reception at BioLabs@CIC, with Kelly providing some remarks about Philly’s attractiveness for growing a life sciences company (an opinion that falls in line with recent international recognition).

(Photo by Julie Zeglen)

Melina Blees speaks a BioLabs reception, May 2019.

Melina Blees, the site director of the BioLabs@CIC, said all lab spaces are now all occupied by biolife companies, alongside a healthy waiting list. Companies can choose either private or shared lab space.

“In many ways we’re competitive,” the Boston-bred Kelly told about working around other companies that are often striving for the same goals, “and in other ways we’re collaborative.”


The CEO said as the team grows, it will eventually look into getting its own space.

“For now, the facility is full. All the labs are taken,” he said. “That feels great as a biotech entrepreneur, to feel the energy around biotech and cell and gene therapy — that feels great.”

Blees agreed, saying that the space filling quickly with innovative companies has helped build the biotech and biolife community in Philly.

“It’s been really crazy, even faster than we anticipated,” she said. “It speaks to how the market is really ready for these offerings.”

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