Quell Therapeutics, a London-based biotech developing immune cell therapies to target transplant rejection and autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, launched today with €40M series A funding.
UK life sciences trust Syncona is the lead investor, with a €38.8M stake in the company. Syncona will own a controlling 69% of the business, reflecting their large initial investment.
Quell aims to develop T regulatory (Treg) cell therapies for a variety of non-cancer targets and the technology is licensed from UCL and King’s College London. The rest of the series A round, €1.1M, comes from the UCL Technology Fund.
Syncona was set up by the Wellcome Trust as an independent organization in 2012, with €228.3M initial investment, to help fund UK biotechs. Since then, the investor has expanded exponentially and developed a good knowledge of the immunotherapy and cell therapy spaces. It used this knowledge to connect and partner with Quell’s six scientific co-founders from Kings College, UCL and Hannover Medical School.
Alberto Sanchez-Fueyo, King’s College London, one of the scientific founders, commented: “The founder team has a unique cross-section of expertise, built over decades of scientific research and we believe there is a significant opportunity to develop novel therapies for the treatment of solid organ transplant and autoimmune conditions.”
Quell is the tenth biotech to be founded by Syncona. Unlike some other investors, Syncona has a policy of taking a large stake in new biotechs and helping them to develop from an early stage. For example, earlier this year it took a 47% stake in Swiss biotech Anaveon, which is developing a T cell-boosting therapy to fight cancer, in return for €25M (CHF 28M) investment.
There has been a lot of interest in the potential of Treg cell-based therapies to fight cancer, but a number of other biotechs have also started investing their potential for solving other health problems such as transplanted organ rejection and autoimmune disease.
The promise of this tech is attracting a lot of investor and partner interest, with French Treg biotech TxCell being acquired by Sangamo Therapeutics last year and Canadian biotech Parvus Therapeutics, also using Tregs to target autoimmune disease, signing a massive deal with Genentech only last week.
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