Nine months after first announcing a Series B, French biotech ImCheck returned to the venture capital well seeking a bit more cash.
The company found what it was looking for, sealing the deal on an additional $7.1 million investment and closing the Series B at a total of $64 million. New funding comes solely from BB Pureos Bioventures and will help support an ongoing trial for its lead candidate, as well as boost development of the company’s preclinical portfolio of antibody candidates in immuno-oncology, autoimmune and infectious disease indications.
Last December, ImCheck revealed the initial round at $53 million, and the extended Series B now brings the total money raised by Imcheck to $91 million in a little over three years.
ImCheck had previously committed that most of its Series B funding would help fund a Phase I/IIa study for its lead immuno-oncology program, ICT01. The trial started in February and received approval to begin dosing the second cohort of patients last week. It is expected to be completed toward the end of 2022.
ICT01 centers around a specific kind of T cell called a gamma delta T cell, which researchers hope are more effective than CAR-T therapies harnessing alpha beta cells at breaking into a tumor’s microenvironment. Where the treatments differ is in how gamma delta T cells do not rely on specific antigens, but instead kill their targets when presented with generic expressions of infection or disease.
Additionally, CAR-T treatments only work in blood cancers and come with several limitations, namely toxicity. They are also extremely expensive to manufacture and produce, leading to high price tags for consumers and underwhelming sales.
The ICT01 program, though, stems from the idea that the mere presence of gamma delta T cells within a tumor microenvironment is linked to a better prognosis. But rather than extracting the cells, ImCheck has developed a method using butyrophilin (BTN) molecules to boost the activity of certain gamma delta T cells already at hand.
ImCheck scientists hope their program can do two things: point the gamma delta T cells in the bloodstream toward infected cells or tumors and activate the gamma delta T cells already in a tumor’s microenvironment. CEO Pierre d’Epenoux suggested to Endpoints News in an interview last December that ICT01 is the only monoclonal antibody program among those trying to harness the potential of gamma delta T cells.
That competition has grown steadily over the years, with some of the biggest players including GammaDelta Therapeutics and its spinoff Adaptate, Regeneron-backed Adicet Bio, Netherlands-based Gadeta, and Scotland’s TC BioPharm.