Abingworth launches UK Immuno-Oncology Startup with Seed Funding

brain tumor Puwadol Jaturawutthichai FI

Just when we thought it couldn’t become any more intense, the field of immuno-oncology is heating up. VC giant Abingworth has seeded a new UK startup, GammaDelta Therapeutics, to bring its T cell therapy to the clinic.

Abingworth, a huge British VC firm, has thrown its weight behind a new London-based immuno-oncology startup, GammaDelta Therapeutics. The company is pioneering the manufacture of a more effective T cell therapy that it hopes will become the basis of a solid tumor drug pipeline.

GammaDelta is headed by Raj Mehta of Cancer Research Technology and builds on the work of Adrian Hayday and Oliver Nussbaumer of Kings College London and The Francis Crick Institute. Together, they are developing the extraction and amplification of gamma-delta T cells. It has not been revealed exactly how much seed funding Abingworth has provided to the fledgling company.

Because they are tissue-resident, gamma-delta T cells are more effective than their blood-resident alpha-beta counterparts at invading and killing solid tumors. Gamma-delta T cells exhibit consistent levels of expression of interferon gamma, which Mehta believes is the key to this advantage.

Figure 1. T cells attacking a cancer cell.
Figure 1. T cells attacking a cancer cell.

Here is a population of cells. We can extract them, amplify them to the levels that we can actually think about therapy, and nobody else can do that…These cells, when we analyze them, they tick pretty much every single box you want for a potent cytolytic T cell.” Raj Mehta, Interim CEO of GammaDelta Therapeutics.

Mehta is referring to the challenges that need to be addressed by existing options. CAR-T therapies must overcome poor cell entry. Checkpoint therapies don’t have this issue to as great an extent, but they require environments with a heavy mutation load.

A few companies other than GammaDelta have already established themselves in the gamma-delta T cell space. Lymphact is a Portuguese company using them to reengineer more common T cells. Gadeta, a Dutch outfit, is competing directly with GammaDelta, and it raised €7M in Series A last spring.

Mehta says the next challenge for the company will be to sort out manufacturing, and it is well positioned to do this: despite Brexit‘s bad news bears for biotech, London has become a global hub for cell manufacture. With this access and what must be significant financial aid from Abingworth, GammaDelta could still make up lost time in the race to bring this cell therapy to the clinic and eventually the market.

Featured Image: Puwadol Jaturawutthichai/shutterstock.com
Figure 1: royaltystockphoto.com/shutterstock.com


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