Anocca raises $36.6M for large-scale development of cancer cell therapies

t-cell receptor

Anocca AB has raised SEK 400 million ($36.6 million) to further develop the discovery and manufacture of next generation cell therapies for cancer on an industrial scale.

It will also allow Anocca to progress its first products into clinical trials.

The financing brings together a group of existing and new investors, including Mellby Gård, AMF, Michano, Swedbank Robur, Ramsbury, Nidoco and several family offices and private investors.

“In recent years, we have made great progress in automating our research platform. In addition, our large-scale and precise analytical methods have allowed us to generate additional data that strengthens the first products that will enter clinical trials. The capital injection will fund the continued expansion of Anocca’s research, development, and manufacturing capabilities as well as the start of a first clinical trial which is planned to be initiated in 2024,” said Reagan Jarvis, CEO of Anocca.

Anocca uses proprietary analytical methods to identify and produce a kind of immune cell, T-cells, that have the ability to fight a specific tumor. These processes are unique and Anocca aims to be the first company that on an industrial scale can identify suitable targets on tumor cells and generate matching T-cell receptors (TCRs), a type of receptor that controls the activity of the immune system’s T-cells. Each active TCR identified by Anocca can be further developed into a highly specialized cancer treatment, or a TCR-T therapy.

In recent years, cell therapies have shown enormous potential in the treatment of cancer. The cell therapies used in practice today, CAR-T, have revolutionized the treatment of some cancers but are effective in less than 10% of all tumors. Despite this, CAR-T has quickly created a multi-billion-dollar market. The next generation of cell therapies, TCR-T, unlike CAR-T, has the potential to target virtually all forms of cancers.

“Anocca’s unique process creates almost endless opportunities to generate new TCR-Ts on a continuous basis. This means that we now have the chance to establish a Swedish company as a global leader in future cancer treatments,” said Hans Stråberg, chairman of the board of Anocca.

Anocca was founded in 2014 and currently has 100 employees. The company’s operations include both research and manufacturing and are located at former AstraZeneca facilities in Södertälje. In recent years, Anocca has focused on automating and expanding its platform to identify the right targets on tumor cells and matching TCRs, while preparing for regulatory approval of the manufacturing facility. Including the current capital raise, Anocca has received a total of SEK 1.3 billion ($120 million) in venture capital. In December, Anocca secured €25 million ($26.5 million) venture debt financing from the European Investment Bank (EIB). 

Anocca’s process for generating TCR-Ts

Every day, the immune system defeats tumor cells that are about to develop into cancer. This in part is achieved by the immune system’s T-cells, which identify the tumor cells through a sophisticated recognition process. Each tumor cell has thousands of different ways of presenting itself to the body’s T-cells. To recognise all these variants, each T-cell has a unique receptor. The body can make a quintillion different variants of these T-cell receptors (TCRs). When the right TCR finds a matching signal on the tumor cell, the T-cell will be activated and effectively destroy the tumor cell. Cancer occurs when the growing tumor overwhelms T-cell defenses.

By systematically recreating and manipulating this complex biological process in the lab, Anocca can identify the most effective targets and TCRs for each tumor type. In addition, Anocca considers the variations between individuals in how a specific tumor is presented to the immune system.

Anocca’s process is divided into three parts. First is to identify the most common ways a specific tumor presents itself. Second, is the production of a matching TCR for that cancer target, and the third part is validating that the match is potent and safe. Once Anocca has identified and validated the exact TCR – out of a quintillion possible – a patient’s white blood cells can be engineered in the laboratory to express the desired TCR. These cells are then re-infused as a treatment. This T-cell therapy modality is called TCR-T.

There are several TCR-Ts under development globally, but Anocca is unique in combining a large-scale approach with very high precision, which means that the company can generate new, highly specialized TCR-Ts in an automated fashion. 

Currently, Anocca has a rapidly growing library of TCRs, all of which have the potential to be developed into effective therapies for different cancer types in several different patient groups.

Explore other topics: CancerClinical trialFundingSweden

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