Korean VCs pile into PDC*line to bankroll NSCLC vaccine trial

The PDC*line Pharma team (PDC*line Pharma)

PDC*line Pharma has turned to Korean investors to help raise a €13.9 million ($15.5 million) series B round. The money will fund a phase 1/2 trial of a therapeutic vaccine in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that got underway last year.

Franco-Belgian biotech PDC*line is developing anticancer immunotherapies based on an allogeneic therapeutic cell line of plasmacytoid dendritic cells. PDC*line secured access to the cells as a spinout from the French blood bank, giving it the building blocks of vaccines it thinks are capable of priming and boosting antigen-specific cytotoxic T cells.

PDC*line began putting that idea to the test last year when it received clearance to start a phase 1/2 trial of PDC*lung01 in NSCLC patients. The trial will give PDC*lung01 to 66 NSCLC patients as either a single agent or in combination with Merck’s Keytruda.

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A handful of new investors have come on board to bankroll the clinical trial. Three of PDC*line’s five new investors, namely Korean Investment Partners, Shinhan-Cognitive Start-up Fund and UTC 2019 BIOVENTUREFUND, are based in Korea. PDC*line first connected with the Korean biotech community last year when it licensed rights to PDC*lung01 in the country to LG Chem Life Sciences.

Investors based closer to home rounded out the syndicate. PDC*line’s other two new investors are SRIW and Sambrinvest, the investment groups of the Belgian region Wallonia and city Charleroi, respectively. PDC*line also secured €6.1 million in loans and subsidies from Wallonia.

The additional financial support, which brings the total secured by PDC*line up to €20 million, sets the biotech up to generate data from the phase 1/2 trial, which has an estimated primary completion date of November on ClinicalTrials.gov.

PDC*line moved the cancer vaccine into the clinic in the belief its cocktail of active agents will help anticancer immune responses and complement the mechanism of checkpoint inhibitors. PDC*lung01 is made by mixing cells with peptides derived from target tumor antigens, before irradiating them to stop proliferation. The vaccine features antigens such as NY-ESO-1 and MAGE-A3.

PDC*lung01 entered the clinic several years after another vaccine, now known as PDC*mel, began being tested in humans. PDC*mel, formerly called GeniusVac-Mel4, completed a phase 1 trial in melanoma patients in 2017 but is yet to advance past that point. Seven of the nine patients progressed after treatment. Two patients had serious adverse reactions. 

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