Cell Medica (or ‘the Company’), a leading cellular immunotherapy company, has closed a £60 million Series C investment round with participation from existing investors Touchstone Innovations, funds managed by Invesco Perpetual, and funds managed by Woodford Investment Management.
Cell Medica will use the investment capital to continue to progress its three proprietary technology platforms for cell-based immunotherapy products. The Company’s lead oncology product, baltaleucel-T (CMD-003), is currently under investigation in the CITADEL Phase 2 clinical trial for the treatment of patients with advanced lymphomas associated with the Epstein Barr virus. Comprised of the patient’s own immune cells, baltaleucel-T offers the potential for a targeted approach to cancer treatment with very limited side effects or toxicities. The US FDA granted fast track designation to baltaleucel-T in February 2017 in recognition of the product’s potential to address an important unmet clinical need.
Over the last year, Cell Medica has significantly expanded its technology base through two strategic collaborations and the acquisition of Delenex Therapeutics. The Company has established a product development partnership with Baylor College of Medicine to develop genetically engineered chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) to reprogramme human immune cells to recognise and kill cancer cells while also preventing cancer escape mechanisms. This extensive partnership will explore the use of NKT cells, a powerful class of immune cells, to target solid tumors. This approach may also allow the use of an allogeneic off-the-shelf cell product to increase the convenience and reduce the manufacturing cost of cell-based immunotherapy treatments.
The Delenex Therapeutics acquisition has provided Cell Medica with an in-house technology platform to generate antibody fragments (scFvs) which enable CAR-NKT products to target new cancer antigens. The Delenex know-how also provides the capability to engineer immune cells to secrete blocking antibodies which prevent cancer cells from triggering inhibition pathways to down-regulate the immune response.
Cell Medica has also partnered with University College London (UCL) to develop a new approach to improve the expression of T cell receptors (TCRs) which naturally recognize cancer markers. Referred to as the Dominant TCR technology, this greatly increases the number of cancer-detecting TCRs expressed on human T cells, thereby enhancing the natural potency of these cells.