TScan adds another $100M to the pot as it plots new TCR cancer trials

TScan Therapeutics has raised a cool $100 million in a series C to start 2021 on the positive notes it rang throughout 2020.

Boston area-based TScan launched in July 2019 with the goal of identifying new targets for T-cell therapies in both blood cancers and solid tumors. It started off with $48 million and later inked a collaboration with its Big Pharma backer Novartis for research into kidney cancer.

Then, late last year, it took aim at COVID-19—turning its genome-based, high-throughput discovery platform for parsing T-cell receptors (TCRs) toward the coronavirus pandemic and how those immune cells react—and inked a licensing agreement with Qiagen.

Now, it’s raised a hefty $100 million series C, adding new investors including BlackRock, RA Capital Management and two undisclosed healthcare-focused funds. Existing investors including founding investor Longwood Fund, 6 Dimensions Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, GV, Novartis Venture Fund and Pitango HealthTech also chipped into the round.

Proceeds from this financing will be used to advance TScan’s TCR-T cell therapy pipeline for solid and liquid tumors into the clinic.

RELATED: Qiagen joins with T-cell biotech TScan to develop immune system test for COVID-19

Like chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, TCR treatments are based on giving patients immune cells that have been modified to attack cancer cells. But unlike CAR-Ts, which recognize targets on the surface of cancer cells, TCRs can zero in on proteins within the cells. It’s an approach that could work in solid tumors, an area where CAR-Ts have struggled.

TScan also wants to go after blood cancers that tend not to respond well to immunotherapy, such as acute myeloid leukemia.

While its peers are developing TCRs against 15 or so known antigens, TScan is using technology out of Harvard University to find completely new ones. In its latest funding round, the biotech said it plans to set out three target candidates late this year, with IND submissions to follow in 2022 for solid tumors.

It’s also set to finish off IND-enabling studies for two of its liquid tumor programs, TSC-100 and TSC-101, and submit INDs for both with the FDA in the second half of the year.

“This funding will enable TScan to progress its first two TCR-T cell assets into the clinic in 2021, with three additional programs to enter the clinic in 2022,” said David Southwell, CEO at TScan.

“I’m excited to welcome this new syndicate of distinguished healthcare investors to TScan. Recently, we have identified over 40 novel cancer targets from clinically active TCRs for development of multiplexed TCR-T cell therapies as part of our solid tumor program. Our goal is to continue to build a bank of clinically-active TCRs throughout 2021 to help patients win their fight against cancer.”