Immunocore raises $130M to fund pivotal cancer program

Immunocore has raised a $130 million (€117 million) series B round, ending its long wait for fresh funding. The British biotech made waves in 2015 with a $320 million series A but reportedly had to slash the near-unicorn valuation it achieved back then to get the latest round off the ground.

A lot has changed since Immunocore raised its monster series A round. Neil Woodford, a contributor to the series A, has fallen from grace, and some of the key executives at Immunocore, including CEO Eliot Forster, have left the company. Those events have put Immunocore in the headlines as much for its problems as its pipeline in recent years.

The series B provides Immunocore with an opportunity to change the narrative. General Atlantic, which reportedly invested around $75 million, led the round with the support of fellow new backers including CCB International, JDRF T1D Fund and Rock Springs Capital. A handful of existing investors, including Eli Lilly, also chipped in money.

Immunocore will use the proceeds to fund pivotal clinical studies of its metastatic uveal melanoma prospect tebentafusp, formerly known as IMCgp100, and collaborations with Genentech in MAGE-A4 and GlaxoSmithKline in NY-ESO-1. The spending plan also calls for investment in wholly owned drugs to treat hepatitis B and solid tumors. 

The anti-cancer assets are bispecifics that feature a T cell receptor (TCR)-targeting system and an anti-CD3 antibody fragment. By combining those elements, Immunocore thinks it can activate T cells and turn them against tumors. Notably, Immunocore’s focus on TCRs means it can drug intracellular targets that are inaccessible to CAR-T cells and conventional antibody-based bispecifics. 

In theory, Immunocore can access many more targets than, for example, Kite’s CAR-T cell therapies and Amgen’s bispecific T-cell engagers. The potential of the platform enabled Immunocore to strike deals with Genentech, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca while landing a huge series A round.

However, the valuation achieved at the time of the series A reportedly became an albatross for Immunocore. When The Telegraph reported details of General Atlantic’s investment last year, it said the financing valued Immunocore at around $640 million, down roughly one-third on the valuation it achieved in 2015.