Eureka nets $60M to take T-cell therapy into the clinic

With a $60 million series D round, Eureka Therapeutics will go full speed ahead on a phase 1 trial for its lead candidate, a T-cell treatment for relapsed and refractory CD19+ non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The funds, raised from the likes of Acorn Pacific Ventures and GP Capital, will also go toward advancing its pipeline, including candidates for solid tumors as well as other blood cancers, according to a statement.

“This financing will help expand our drug development efforts, and we look forward to applying our ARTEMIS™ technology to broader classes of patients than currently can be treated with CAR-T therapies.”

The Bay Area biotech’s therapies are based on its Artemis T-cell platform, which is designed to be safer than conventional CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cell treatments.

The FDA approved the first two CAR-T treatments for blood cancers—Novartis’ Kymriah and Kite and Gilead’s Yescarta—in 2017, but the agency still flags cytokine release syndrome and neurotoxicity as “significant safety issues” tied to this type of treatment.

Hyperactivation of T cells can lead to the release of toxic levels of inflammatory cytokines, Eureka says. To combat this, the company developed a T-cell receptor that more effectively regulates T-cell activation and cytokine release when it acts on a tumor cell.

Eureka will start enrolling for the phase 1 non-Hodgkin lymphoma trial in the first quarter. The candidate, ET190L1-ARTEMIS, showed the same potency as CAR-T therapies in preclinical studies, but with a “dramatic reduction” in levels of cytokine released.