Cell Medica hauls in $78M to get its cancer immunotherapy through Phase II

London's Cell Medica has raised a £50 million ($78 million) B round to support its work on treatments that train the body's immune system to fight cancer and infectious disease, rolling through midstage trials with an oncology candidate.

U.K. investing stalwart Imperial Innovations led the round, joined by Invesco Perpetual and Woodford Investment Management. Cell Medica plans to pour the new funds into its pipeline, fueling R&D alongside partners including the Wellcome Trust and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CRIT).

The biotech's top prospect is CMD-003, an immunotherapy comprised of a patient's own T cells. The treatment targets advanced lymphomas associated with Epstein Barr virus (EBV), an oncogenic condition tied to a wide range of cancers. With its new cash in place, Cell Medica plans to complete a Phase II trial in lymphoma, already under way with the help of CRIT, and continue research into EBV-associated malignancies including leukemia, nasopharyngeal carcinoma and gastric cancer.

Gregg Sando

"Immunotherapy is one of the most exciting and fast-moving areas in cancer research right now, and Cell Medica is at the forefront of developing a new paradigm for the safe and effective treatment of patients with advanced lymphomas," CEO Gregg Sando said in a statement.

The second pillar of Cell Medica's pipeline is infectious disease, and the biotech is developing treatments that take patients' immune cells and reprogram them to target viral cells. Its lead treatments address cytomegalovirus and adenovirus, two generally asymptomatic afflictions that can prove dangerous in immunocompromised patients.

Imperial Innovations, flush with cash after the Circassia and Abzena IPOs, believes Cell Medica could be the next big thing on Europe's biotech scene.

Earlier this year, the London financier raised £150 million ($239 million) in new funds, money CEO Russ Cummings said will further its strategy of picking winners early and then backing them to the end. And Cell Medica, in which Imperial owns a roughly 25% stake, is one of its favorite seedlings.

"The size of the round and our commitment to it reflects our belief in the company's management and technology," Cummings said in a statement. "At the time of our recent fundraising, we announced that we had identified a select number of businesses within our maturing portfolio which we are ready to scale with pace and ambition. Cell Medica is our first major investment post-fundraising and the first of a number of announcements over the coming months as we begin to put our capital to work."

- read Cell Medica's statement
- here's Imperial's announcement