Cell Medica lands $26.5M in venture cash to fuel U.S. expansion

London-based Cell Medica is coming to America. The cell therapy developer says it pieced together a $26.5 million round to finance new operations in Texas to work on a cancer immunotherapy program. And the biotech says it's planning a "significant buildup" as it lays the foundation for a hoped-for launch of a viral infection fighter in 2013.

Invesco Perpetual and Imperial Innovations stepped in to add cash after the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) offerered $15.3 million to back its work on immunology tech licensed in from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Thomas Hecht, the former Amgen ($AMGN) chief in Europe, is stepping up as chairman and the Wellcome Trust is converting its investment in the company into equity.

CPRIT is a $3 billion state effort aimed at building an industry around cancer drug research and development. And it's no stranger to controversy. Often accused of letting political considerations trump science, its chief scientific officer recently announced his resignation as officials scrap over who gets the money. Cell Medica says it plans to use the cash to help recruit new talent.

"The launch of our U.S. cancer immunotherapy operations represents a key step in the execution of Cell Medica's business plan and we are very fortunate to have CPRIT as a core investor supporting the operations being set up in Texas," said CEO Gregg Sando in a prepared statement. "We will be expanding our management team both in the US and Europe to deliver on our current product programmes and to secure a leadership position in cell therapeutics for cancer and infectious diseases."

- here's the press release