Bahija Jallal (Source: MedImmune)

Wood­ford who? TCR-fo­cused Im­muno­core sol­diers on with $130M+ B round

Im­muno­core — once a dar­ling of the now-dis­graced Neil Wood­ford — is shak­ing off its past by rais­ing more than $130 mil­lion in a Se­ries B haul.

The Ox­ford­shire, UK-based com­pa­ny, which launched in 2015 to ad­vance its T cell re­cep­tor (TCR) tech­nol­o­gy with a mam­moth $320 mil­lion round, was soon glo­ri­fied with a val­u­a­tion of near­ly $1 bil­lion (£800m). That uni­corn sta­tus proved to be its Achilles heel, trig­ger­ing an ex­o­dus of top man­age­ment in re­cent years as po­ten­tial in­vestors balked at the old val­u­a­tion.

Bahi­ja Jal­lal, for­mer pres­i­dent of the now-de­funct Med­Im­mune unit at As­traZeneca, took over the reins as CEO in ear­ly 2019, promis­ing to steady the ship.

“I be­lieve for what we promised to de­liv­er, the fund­ing is ad­e­quate for that,” Jal­lal told End­points News.

Im­muno­core, which counts Genen­tech, GSK, As­traZeneca, Eli Lil­ly, and the Bill and Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion as part­ners, has three com­pounds be­ing test­ed in hu­mans (in­clud­ing tebenta­fusp, which is in a piv­otal melanoma study) and plans to shep­herd two more in­to the clin­ic this year, she said.

The new round comes as the in­dus­try’s ap­petite for TCR ther­a­pies is bur­geon­ing. One of the key com­po­nents of the im­mune sys­tem are T cells, which oblit­er­ate aber­rant cells by us­ing T cell re­cep­tor (TCR) recog­ni­tion of cell sur­face mark­ers known as anti­gens. When a T cell rec­og­nizes a tu­mor anti­gen via the TCR, it snuffs the ma­lig­nant cell on which it re­sides. TCR tech typ­i­cal­ly in­volves reengi­neer­ing T cell re­cep­tors so that they can bet­ter rec­og­nize can­cer pro­teins, spark­ing an as­sault on tu­mors.

Im­muno­core’s in-house TCR tech­nol­o­gy has spawned bis­pecifics de­signed to over­come the lim­i­ta­tions of oth­er im­munol­o­gy agents by com­bin­ing a TCR to tar­get and rec­og­nize can­cer, in­fect­ed or au­toim­mune cells and an ef­fec­tor func­tion to ac­ti­vate (for can­cer and in­fec­tious dis­eases) or sup­press (for au­toim­mune dis­eases) the im­mune sys­tem.

One of the at­trib­ut­es of the tech­nol­o­gy is hav­ing ac­cess to any pro­tein that is processed by the body, in­clud­ing the in­tra­cel­lu­lar pro­teins that can­not be ad­dressed by mon­o­clon­al an­ti­bod­ies, Jal­lal not­ed.

“You see the suc­cess of the check­point in­hibitors in can­cer, but they’re still ad­dress­ing on­ly the anti­gen-spe­cif­ic T cells,” she said. “Our tech­nol­o­gy can bring any T cells and ren­der them, if you will, killer cells to kill the tu­mor cells.”

This B round was led by Gen­er­al At­lantic, with par­tic­i­pa­tion of old stake­hold­ers Eli Lil­ly and RTW In­vest­ments and new in­vestors CCB In­ter­na­tion­al, JDRF T1D Fund, Rock Springs Cap­i­tal, Ter­ra Mag­num Cap­i­tal Part­ners and WuXi AppTec’s Cor­po­rate Ven­ture Fund. The Tele­graph had re­port­ed in Sep­tem­ber that New York-based Gen­er­al At­lantic had com­mit­ted an ini­tial £60 mil­lion to what was shap­ing up to be a £100 mil­lion round.

Jal­lal would not com­ment on a time­line, but said an IPO re­mains one of Im­muno­core’s op­tions go­ing for­ward.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 144,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 144,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Yong Dai, Frontera Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Lit­tle-known Or­biMed-backed biotech clos­es $160M round to start gene ther­a­py tri­al

Frontera Therapeutics, a China and US biotech, has closed a $160 million Series B and received regulatory clearance to test its first gene therapy stateside, Endpoints News has learned.

Led by the largest shareholder, OrbiMed, the biotech has secured $195 million total since its September 2019 founding, according to an email reviewed by Endpoints. The lead AAV gene therapy program is for an undisclosed rare eye disease, according to the source.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 144,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

Joe Wiley, Amryt Pharma CEO

Am­ryt Phar­ma sub­mits a for­mal dis­pute res­o­lu­tion to the FDA over re­ject­ed skin dis­ease drug

The story of Amryt Pharma’s candidate for the genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa, or EB, will soon enter another chapter.

After the Irish drugmaker’s candidate, dubbed Oleogel-S10 and marketed as Filsuvez, was handed a CRL earlier this year, the company announced in a press release that it plans to submit a formal dispute resolution request for the company’s NDA for Oleogel-S10.

Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

EU to launch vac­cine de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner­ship with Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean coun­tries

While European companies, including BioNTech, are focused on increasing vaccine access to African countries by setting up vaccine manufacturing facilities, the European Union is looking westward to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Speaking at a press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU is launching a new initiative for vaccines and medicines manufacturing in Latin America, to get drugs to Latin America and the Caribbean faster.

Matt Kapusta, uniQure CEO

In trou­bled Hunt­ing­ton’s space, uniQure’s gene ther­a­py shows ear­ly promise

In randomized clinical trial data from a small number of patients, Dutch biotech uniQure shared that its gene therapy for Huntington’s disease seems to reduce the amount of the mutant protein responsible for the disease over the course of a year.

In seven patients with early-stage Huntington’s — four who got the treatment and three who got a placebo — mutant huntingtin protein levels in the cerebrospinal fluid decreased by an average of just over 50% in patients who got the gene therapy compared to around a 17% drop in patients who got the placebo after a year.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 144,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.