Racing Sanofi, ImmunOs bags $74M for myeloid checkpoint trials in cancer patients

VCs are funneling money into myeloid checkpoint targets. ImmunOs Therapeutics is the beneficiary of interest in the approach, reeling in $74 million to take its lead immuno-oncology candidate through phase 2. 

Pfizer Ventures helped put ImmunOs on the map late in 2019 when it joined (PDF) with BioMedPartners to co-lead a 15 million Swiss franc ($15 million) series A round in the biotech. Thirty months later, ImmunOs is back with a $74 million series B financing that positions it to show how cancer patients respond to IOS-1002, a human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-based protein that is designed to block the activation of three immunosuppressive receptors.

By blocking the activation of key components of the innate immune system like LILRB1, LILRB2 and KIR3DL1 on innate and adaptive immune cells, ImmunOs is aiming to alter the tumor microenvironment. Specifically, the Swiss biotech hopes to induce the tumor infiltration of M1 macrophages, T cells and NK cells to drive the destruction of cancer cells. 

“ImmunOs’ approach of identifying HLA molecules with naturally optimized affinity and specificity profiles is not just elegant but also truly differentiated—a novel modality leveraging the co-evolution of immune-regulatory mechanisms,” Andreas Jurgeit, partner at co-lead investor Gimv, said in a statement.

Other companies are going after some of the same targets. Sanofi paid Biond Biologics $125 million upfront for rights to a monoclonal antibody against LILRB1, also known as ILT2, and biotechs including Kahr and Jounce Therapeutics are looking at LILRB2. Yet, ImmunOs’ approach of targeting multiple LILRB receptors and a KIR receptor sets it apart from the competition.

A phase 1 clinical trial of IOS-1002 is set to get underway in the second half of the year. Beyond that, the biotech plans to use the series B monies to run phase 2 trials of the candidate. ImmunOs has set up a U.S. subsidiary to support studies in the country. 

The Zurich-based biotech expanded its investor syndicate to fund the work. Gimv co-lead the round with Samsara BioCapital and Lightspeed Venture Partners. The lead trio received assists from fellow new backers Mission BioCapital, GL Capital, PEAK6 Strategic Capital and Fiscus Financial as well as existing investors such as Pfizer Ventures.