Boehringer backs T3 to take bacterial cancer therapy into clinic

T3 Pharmaceuticals has raised CHF 25 million ($27 million) to take its lead bacterial cancer therapy into the clinic. Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF) co-led the round with the support of other existing investors.

In recent years, T3 has worked to commercialize research into the role bacterial type III secretion can play in the delivery of proteins to intracellular targets. The approach hijacks a bacterial mechanism for getting materials into human cells to turn microorganisms into delivery vehicles capable of hitting intracellular targets. 

T3 is applying the technology to solid tumors, a group of diseases that have attractive intracellular targets that are hard to hit with some other modalities. The Swiss biotech has designed its bacterial delivery vehicles to accumulate and replicate at solid tumor sites. In theory, the immune system will eliminate bacteria found in healthy tissues, enabling T3 to deliver deadly doses to tumors without causing intolerable adverse events.

Researchers at the University of Basel provided preliminary validation of the concept in 2015, leading to the formation of T3. Since then, T3 has raised a series of financing rounds, including a BIVF-backed CHF 12 million financing 10 months ago, to support its progress toward the clinic.

T3 now expects to move T3P-Y058-739 into a phase 1/2 solid tumor trial early next year, around six months later than the target it set itself in September. The trial will provide an early test of the ability of T3’s bacteria to grow selectively at solid tumors and deliver proteins to intracellular targets.

BIVF returned for the CHF 25 million round to support that plan, joining with other existing backers including Reference Capital and Wille Finance to bring T3’s total haul to date up to CHF 40 million.

If successful, T3 will realize the potential of an idea that has been around for years. Researchers in Basel were publishing papers on the application of bacterial secretion systems around the turn of the century, but at that time they could only secrete unfolded or partially folded proteins.