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Peter Thiel and Sean Parker are financing a secretive cancer-fighting start-up, source says

  • A stealth start-up called 3T Biosciences quietly raised more than $12 million from Sean Parker, Peter Thiel and others, according to a source familiar.
  • The company is in the cancer immunotherapy space.

A stealth start-up called 3T Biosciences has raised more than $12 million in a massive seed round led by early Facebook investor Sean Parker and including Peter Thiel, according to a person familiar with the company's financing.

Little is known about 3T Biosciences, but this person said the company is led by cancer biology PhD student and investor, Asset Management Ventures' principal Luke Lee, as well as a group of academics from Christopher Garcia's biology lab at Stanford.

3T Biosciences is in the T-cell therapy space, the person said, meaning that it is among a growing group of new start-ups working to bolster the body's own immune system to fight cancer. That's a different approach than traditional medicines like chemotherapy, which kill off both cancerous and healthy cells.

Sean Parker speaking at the 2015 CGI Annual Meeting in New York.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Sean Parker speaking at the 2015 CGI Annual Meeting in New York.

These approaches have not proved successful for all cancer patients and are still early. Juno Therapeutics, a Seattle-based company in the space, needed to halt development for its drug therapy after three patient deaths.

Still, Silicon Valley's venture investors see an opportunity to make a return with Gilead Sciences' recently acquiring cancer immunotherapy company Kite Pharma for $11.9 billion. That follows Abbvie's $10.2 billion acquisition of Founders Fund-backed cancer drug start-up Stemcentrx in 2016.

These venture firms also see potential to combine traditional drug therapeutics with new technologies like machine learning in the hopes of accelerating the timeline and reducing the cost of bringing a new drug to market.

The round was led by Parker through his venture fund, the person said, with participation from Thiel Capital and several other firms.