South Korean biotech Eutilex has seen a $21 billion KRW ($18.9 million) Series A funding boost as it looks to take its lead cancer med into midstage testing.
Firms DS Asset Management, Kolon Investment, G.N. Tech Venture and SNU Bio Angel all helped top up its pot, bringing its total capital to 30.5 billion KRW ($27.7 million) since its founding just last year.
The cash will be used to bolster work on its immuno-oncology programs, expand its R&D capabilities by building a new GMP facility in Seoul, as well as move ahead with its leading light, 4-1BB CTL, into phase 2 studies.
The fledgling biotech said that this transaction is “one of the largest private financings in the life sciences sector” in South Korea this year.
Its med, an autologous T cell therapy, works by enhancing a patient’s own antitumor CD8+ T cells outside of the body, and is then reinfused back into patients. These modified T cells are then able to detect and kill tumor cells.
Given some safety issues coming out of similar cellular research work this year, namely the string of deaths from Juno’s CAR-T program in certain blood cancer patients, there has been some trepidation over this space.
But Eutilex said that its therapy “was shown to be well tolerated as it employs a naturally selected peripheral T cell receptor repertoire.”
It added that in its recent phase 1 trial, 4-1BB CTL “proved to be efficacious while demonstrating a benign safety profile in terminally ill cancer patients.”
Byoung Kwon, Eutilex’s founder and CEO, said: “We have seen compelling results both in terms of safety profile as well as first proof of efficacy in humans in our phase 1 clinical trials for our adoptive T cell therapy technology. Our immunomodulatory antibodies have also demonstrated safety and efficacy in humanized oncology models.”
The biotech also has other pipeline candidates in development including mAbs EU-101 and EU-102.
The former works as an agonist that binds to 4-1BB (also called CD137), a protein receptor expressed in a number of immune cells, particularly CD8+ and CD4+ T cells. The med is being tested both on its own as well as in combo trials with checkpoint inhibitors.
And EU-102 is, according to the biotech, based on a new mechanism of action, binding to T cells and converting regulatory T cells into effector T cells.