Pharma, Venture

Amgen-partnered Immatics bags a $58M round to fund its first clinical steps on new T-cell tech for cancer

Back at the beginning of this year, Amgen stepped up with a billion-dollar smorgasbord of milestones to enlist Immatics in a campaign to create some next-gen, T-cell engaging bispecifics for cancer. And today Amgen came back to the table to help the biotech put together a $58 million round so it could move its first two in-house drugs through their initial paces in the clinic.

Immatics uses a platform tech dubbed Xpresident to identify the targets on cancer cells they want to zero in on. One of their leading programs is for IMA101, expanding specific endogenous T cells, which set out in Phase I in August. Just a few days ago, their close collaborators at MD Anderson launched a Phase I study of IMA201, Immatics’ TCR candidate that reengineers T cells to express an exogenous receptor — the adoptive cell therapy approach that has become famous in the wake of the first CAR-T approval.

Peter Chambré

But as anyone pursuing next-gen tech would tell you, the first-gen CAR-T drugs are limited in scope. Immatics chairman Peter Chambré says that Immatics is a part of the second wave of companies now looking to use new and better target identification tech with adoptive approaches that can make these drugs useful, and safe, in treating a wide range of solid tumors.

The basic approach screens tumor cancer types to “identify those targets exclusively presented on cancer cells,” says the chairman, and then comparing it to normal tissue to ensure they’re using disease specific targets.

“It allows us to identify a significant number of targets on solid tumors we think offers the potential of expanding adoptive cellular therapies into solid tumors,” adds Chambré.

That’s no easy task. And it’s not cheap.

With the help of dievini Hopp Biotech — the investment vehicle driven by German billionaire Dietmar Hopp, who has a big appetite for biotech bets — Immatics has built up a staff of 100 in Germany, with a subsidiary operation in Houston working with partners at MD Anderson under Harpreet Singh with 50 more workers.

Hopp and Amgen are both back for this new round, with Wellington Partners, AT Impf GmbH and others stepping in alongside.

With this latest round, Chambré adds, Immatics has now raised $230 million since it was founded 17 years ago. Their journey included some missteps along the way, and now they have enough cash to see if this approach works in humans.

It’s a big step.

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