Indian biotech start-up Immuneel Therapeutics has announced it has started patient dosing in a CAR-T trial named “IMAGINE.”
The Indian company focuses on creating access to Chimeric Antigen Receptor T cell therapy (CAR-T) and other cellular immunotherapies for the management and treatment of cancers.
The phase II trial is the first industry sponsored CAR-T trial in India and is now actively enrolling patients at Narayana Hrudayalaya, Bengaluru.
Founded in 2019, Immuneel said it is “on a mission to bring cell and gene therapy programs, especially with clinical data, to India at an affordable cost.”
In 2021, the company established an integrated cell therapy development and manufacturing facility at the Mazumdar-Shaw Cancer Centre at Narayana Health City (Bengaluru).
In April, this year, Immuneel successfully raised close to $15 million in a Series A financing round, co-led by Eight Roads Ventures, True North Fund VI LLP and F-Prime Capital, along-with contributions from other existing investors. These funds will enable the company to advance its development pipeline and scale.
Kush M Parmar, Co-founder, Immuneel Therapeutics added, “Our goal is to provide patients in India with potentially transformative therapies and enable affordable access to CAR-T and other complex therapies. As we advance our lead programs, this financing will also allow us to continue building a committed and quality enterprise for global innovators to consider partnering with us to enable access for patients in the region.”
CAR-T therapies, previously not available in India, have shown promising results for patients who have exhausted all other means of treatment in a range of blood cancers. These therapies are available internationally but are extremely expensive per dose, making the IMAGINE trial the first step towards bringing affordable treatments with global quality and clinical data to patients in India.
The IMAGINE trial is funded by Immuneel and will include up to 24 pediatric and adult cancer patients. Immuneel has exclusive rights to ARI-0001/IMN-003A (a CD-19 CAR-T cell therapy) from Hospital Clínic de Barcelona and Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer in Spain to develop, manufacture and commercialize in India via technology transfer. ARI-0001 is approved by the Spanish Drug Agency (AEMPS) and the company said data available compares very favorably with U.S. FDA approved products.
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, co-founder and director of Immuneel, said, “This milestone is significant in building an ecosystem to accelerate and make cell therapies accessible to patients in India, in line with global standards at affordable and disruptive costs. Personalized cell therapies are in their nascency the world over and we have an opportunity to differentiate through partnerships and cutting-edge innovation.”
“CAR-T cell therapy in the U.S. started a decade ago and has proven to be advantageous for patients who relapse following leukemia or lymphoma treatment despite its cost which is beyond the means of most people, including Indians. With Immuneel setting up India’s first integrated center and making CAR-T therapy here at Narayana Health City (Bengaluru), we hope to reach thousands of patients in need. I would like to thank Immuneel for partnering with us for the first Phase 2 CT in India and bringing this breakthrough cancer treatment to India affordably,” said Devi Shetty, chairman, Narayana Health.
Revolutionizing cancer therapy for Indians
Siddhartha Mukherjee, co-founder and director of Immuneel, added: “This trial will demonstrate the success of cutting-edge breakthrough CAR-T cell therapy in cancer treatment and give hope to many patients in need. Now cancer patients in India can look forward to having access to CAR-T cell therapy manufactured in India which has revolutionized cancer treatment globally.”
“IMAGINE has opened up doors to a second chance at life with potential cure, both for children and adults with terminal blood cancers, and we are very excited to have this opportunity to participate in this key trial with Indian patients for a global quality product,” said IMAGINE’s principal investigators Sharat Damodar and Sunil Bhat at Narayana Health.
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