Northern Biologics is developing a portfolio of antibody-based therapeutics based on relevant targets in the tumor microenvironment.

Company Name

Northern Biologics


Toronto, Canada

Investment Stage

Preclinical portfolio acquired by Boehringer Ingelheim for an undisclosed amount in May 2020.


Northern Biologics was the first company built through the Blueline Bioscience incubator, and serves as a case study about the necessary ingredients to turn academic science and entrepreneurial insights into a viable biotech start-up ready for venture investment.

Northern Biologics was built on a foundation of collaborative research at the University of Toronto and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. The research was spearheaded by a group of five scientists who had expertise in functional genomics, antibody engineering and cancer biology. After a four-year research effort, the group approached Versant with a presentation rich in intriguing scientific data, but lacked a structured plan or capabilities for creating a therapeutic antibody company.

Versant deployed the Blueline team to partner with the academic scientists on company creation activities during 2013 and 2014. The activities included; a) prioritizing the portfolio with the most attractive antibody discovery programs, b) negotiating a comprehensive IP licensing agreement with the University of Toronto and with University Health Network, c) negotiating an equity financing agreement with the company founders, d) recruiting key members of the operating team and Scientific Advisory Board and e) identifying potential co-investors, which in this case, led to a build-to-buy agreement with Celgene.


In December 2014, Northern Biologics officially launched with $45 million in committed funding from Versant and Celgene, secure foundational IP licenses, a well-developed R&D plan and the basis for a strong management and scientific team.

In December 2016, the Versant team enabled Northern Biologics to execute a transformative deal with a European biotech, Mosaic Biomedicals, to expand its portfolio through the acquisition of MSC-1, a development-stage antibody to treat solid tumors. In connection with the merger, Versant expanded its Series A commitment and Celgene exercised an option to acquire certain rights to the MSC-1 development program.

Following this strategic transaction, the company has tapped into Versant’s global network to add three complementary pipeline programs through agreements with a French antibody company H-immune, Hebrew University and Memorial Sloan Kettering.

In early 2018, Northern Biologics will begin clinical testing of its lead immuno-oncology asset, MSC-1, in a range of cancers, working with world-leading cancer institutes in Canada, Europe and the U.S. MSC-1 is a humanized antibody against a soluble cytokine called LIF with the desired effects of blocking immunosuppression and inhibiting the self-renewal of cancer stem cells.