ImmunGene nails $9M for armed-antibody lymphoma drug

ImmunGene is working to get its lead armed-antibody cancer treatment from the lab to the clinic, and now the California company has $9 million in Series A cash to light the way.

The company's furthest-along asset, IGN002, is an anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody laced with interferon, designed to home in on non-Hodgkin lymphomas and deliver a cancer-killing payload. ImmunGene is developing the drug through Valor Biotherapeutics, a joint venture with Caliber Biotherapeutics, and the partners hope to file an IND and embark on Phase I in the next 18 months. The pair is also working on targeted treatments for HER2-positive breast cancers and multiple myeloma, both in early stages.

Underpinning ImmunGene's promise is its development platform, said Frank Yu, CEO of investor Ally Bridge Group. The company has licensed a novel development method that marries monoclonal antibodies with interferon, an approach ImmunGene believes presents higher efficacy and a superior safety profile compared with other antibody-drug conjugate programs.

"With this unique platform technology, ImmunGene has a well-diversified portfolio of therapeutic candidates, which enables multiple shots on goal," Yu said in a statement. "Ally Bridge Group is well-prepared to make additional investments in ImmunGene and is committed to assisting the company in its strategic development going forward."

ImmunGene is counting on its well-traveled leadership to shepherd its early-phase assets to success, and the company's C suite includes veteran cancer drug developers from Amgen ($AMGN), Baxter ($BAX), Genentech and Seattle Genetics ($SGEN). Outside of its JV with Caliber, the company has three discovery-stage projects of its own, using its antibody-interferon fusion tech to target melanomas, acute myeloid leukemia and solid tumors.

The high-profile successes of drugs like Roche's ($RHHBY) Kadcyla and Seattle Genetics' Adcetris have helped make antibody-drug conjugation an in-demand technology, with drugmakers around the world scrambling to partner up with ADC luminaries like ImmunoGen ($IMGN) or writing big checks for exclusive rights to novel platforms, as AstraZeneca ($AZN) did in its $440 million deal for Spirogen last month.

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