Not one, not two, but three — biotech claims it will pursue CARs T, M and NK all at once
An oncology startup is touting some really, really bold claims.
Inceptor Bio announced its latest round of funding Thursday at $37 million, which it plans on using to back preclinical programs in CARs T, M and NK. Not only will it be fleshing out its oncology programs, the company says it will also be putting some of that financing to building out its manufacturing facility in Gainesville, FL, which it bought from Massachusetts CDMO Arranta Bio late last year.
While most biotechs will focus on one kind of CAR, usually CAR-T or CAR-NK, or in a few cases, both CAR-T and -NK — such as Century Therapeutics, which also bought its own manufacturing facility last year — Inceptor is the rare biotech attempting all three, throwing in the newer CAR-macrophage, or CAR-M, therapy as well.
However, unlike Century, which emerged from stealth with $250 million in its pockets, Inceptor only has $26 million in seed money from its founding in August 2020 in addition to the $37 million from this recent round.
Why all three CARs? “We and others in the field recognize that CAR-T is not going to be the solution for every tumor,” Inceptor’s President and COO Mike Nicholson told Endpoints News, noting that CAR-T has been more effective against liquid tumors than solid ones. “We want to make sure we are pursuing all of these frankly to increase the number of shots we have at making the impact we want to make in the fight against cancer.”
“As we build these programs, we also do see an opportunity down the road to potentially combine these [therapies],” Nicholson added, citing the potential of starting a patient on CAR-M and transitioning them to CAR-T or CAR-NK.
Inceptor’s program is anchored around two key technologies, Nicholson said. The first is a molecule the company licensed from the University of North Carolina that can be paired with CAR-T to enhance the therapy, while the second is a manufacturing platform that sets up CAR-T cells to better face immunosuppression from the tumor.
Not only is the biotech planning to develop a diverse pipeline of CAR therapies, it also plans on expanding its staff, Shailesh Maingi, Inceptor founder and CEO, said.
When asked about the difficulty of pursuing such a diverse pipeline, Nicholson said that “we recognize that it is a challenge. We certainly are walking into that with our eyes wide open.” However, he noted that while some parts of the manufacturing processes don’t overlap, a lot of them do, and they are making sure they take advantage of those areas.
Maingi said that he hopes Intercept will get its first IND in the second half of 2023, but won’t say what indications they plan on going after.
Kineticos Ventures led this round of funding.