French biotech company ImCheck has announced funding of €96 million ($101.5 million) to investigate antibody drugs with the ability to activate the powerful immune cells called gamma delta T (gdT).
The Marseille-based company hopes it will reach a wider range of cancer immunotherapy with the antibody drugs that include a lead candidate in the development for liquid and solid tumors.
Clinical development of the lead therapeutic candidate and additional programs that go beyond cancer are also set to benefit from the funds.
CEO at ImCheck, Pierre d’Epenoux, said: “Since its inception, ImCheck has gained the support of a syndicate of outstanding international funds. In a highly challenging funding market, we have secured significant fundraising through the addition of highly strategic and valuable investors from the U.S. and Europe, putting us in a position to further deliver on the immense promise of our pipeline.”
The company is developing antibody drugs that target butyrophilns, a family of proteins belonging to the immunoglobulin superfamily. They are new immune system regulators and their importance in the body is associated with their stimulatory and inhibitory effects on cells of the immune system.
ImCheck wants to generate antibodies for each member of the family that will either activate or inhibit a range of immune cells. The technology can be applied to autoimmune conditions and infectious diseases but Imcheck will target cancer primarily.
The company said activating antibodies may offer better results than first-generation checkpoint inhibitors. This method of cancer immunotherapy is made up of antibodies that block a so-called checkpoint protein that prevents immune cells from recognizing tumors. The company said that while it isn’t dismissing this class of drugs, the combination of its drugs with checkpoint inhibitors may be able to master the resistance cancers can develop at checkpoints.
D’Epinoux continued: “We view our singular proprietary position with butyrophilins, which offer powerful immunomodulation of both the innate and adaptive immune systems, as the key to therapeutic intervention for many disease indications and we value the support we are now gaining from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Therapy Acceleration Program as a first investment from a cancer patient nonprofit organization.”
The drug furthest along, ICT01, is an antibody designed to activate gdT cells. ImCheck said it can modulate both innate and adaptive immune responses and entered the lab in 2020. With the money, ImCheck plans to continue phase 2 development of the drug, including tests in solid tumors and blood cancers. ImCheck intends to finish testing ICT01 with a checkpoint inhibitor in multiple solid tumors.
Since its inception, ImCheck said it has raised €154 million total ($160.5 million). The company’s latest financing breaks down to an €80 million ($86 million) series C round co-led by Earlybird and Andera Partners.
In conjunction with the financing round, Florent Gros, of Earlybird and Raphaël Wisniewski, of Andera Partners, will join the company’s board of directors.
Gros, partner at Earlybird, said: “ImCheck’s approach to immuno-oncology is highly differentiated through the clinical demonstration of gamma-delta T cell activation, an area of immunology that has huge potential and interest from the biopharmaceutical community. We support companies that dare to think differently and ImCheck’s innovative concept for immunomodulation could be a game-changer for a range of indications.”
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