Pfizer Ventures helps gamma delta player ImCheck to $53M round

Pfizer Ventures has co-led a $53 million (€48 million) series B investment in ImCheck, a developer of antibodies focused on gamma delta T cells. ImCheck will use the money to move its lead candidate into the clinic in patients with solid and hematological cancers.

Marseille, France-based ImCheck established itself as a player in the nascent gamma delta space in 2017 when Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund had a prominent role in its €20 million series A. The series A set ImCheck up to build on Daniel Olive’s explorations of the modulation of gamma delta T cells, thereby bringing the proven power of immuno-oncology to another class of T cells. 

Running close to the schedule it sketched out in 2017, ImCheck has now reached the point that it needs more money to support its push into the clinic. ImCheck expects to start clinical development of anti-BTN3A antibody ICT01 early next year.

Pfizer Ventures, the VC wing of the Big Pharma company, has come on board to bankroll the work, co-leading the series B with Bpifrance. Fellow new investors Wellington Partners, Agent Capital and Alexandria Venture Investments also participated, giving the series B syndicate a more international feel than the group that put together the previous round. Those existing investors also contributed “a significant portion” of the $53 million in series B funding.

The shift in the balance of the geographic makeup of the investor syndicate is reflected in ImCheck’s strategy, which features plans to increase corporate development activities in the U.S. That work will swallow up some of the series B funds.

A planned phase 1 dose escalation trial will use up another chunk of the funding. ImCheck plans to test ICT01 as a monotherapy in solid and hematological cancers before testing it in combination with anti-PD-1/L1 checkpoint inhibitors.

The phase 1 will provide an early test of the idea that agonism of BTN3A stimulates gamma delta T cells. That idea is underpinned by evidence that BTN3A isoforms play a key role in the activation of the T cells. 

ImCheck is working on a number of similar but earlier-stage assets. In cancer, ImCheck is exploring the effects of activating and inhibiting other BTN targets. ImCheck also has BTN antagonists that it is developing in autoimmune indications. The series B will support the autoimmune work.