|Cell Medica CEO Gregg Sando|
Two ways of harnessing the immune system
CEO: Gregg Sando
Clinical focus: Immuno-oncology and infectious disease
The scoop: T cells are versatile little things, zipping around the body to fight infection, memorize threats and even stop one another from errant acts of violence. But they can't always police the immune system on their own, particularly in the face of cancer and infectious disease. The U.K.'s Cell Medica is developing a pair of technologies designed to extract T cells, beef them up and send them back to fight disease.
What makes Cell Medica Fierce: Cell therapy companies are generally split among those that use a patient's own cells and those that bring in third-party donors. Cell Medica does both. On the former score, the company is at work on a platform through which it harvests a patient's T cells and augments them to target cancerous antigens. And, in infectious disease, Cell Medica has a program for infusing donor T cells into immunosuppressed patients to battle viral infections.
Cell Medica's bifurcated approach helped it close a £50 million Series B last year from U.K. stalwarts Imperial Innovations, Invesco Perpetual and Woodford Investment Management. That round followed a £17 million fundraise, closed in 2012, that allowed Cell Medica to make U.S. landfall and align itself with the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), a key partner.
The biotech's top prospect is CMD-003, a cancer 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 CPRIT's help, Cell Medica is working through a Phase II trial in lymphoma, in the meantime exploring CMD-003's potential in EBV-associated malignancies including leukemia, nasopharyngeal carcinoma and gastric cancer.
In infectious disease, the company is pushing forward with treatments that address cytomegalovirus and adenovirus, two generally asymptomatic afflictions that can prove dangerous in immunocompromised patients. Cell Medica's cytomegalovirus therapy is already available in the company's native country thanks in part to the Wellcome Trust and Innovate U.K., whose Cell Therapy Catapult program has helped the company advance its R&D platform.
With cash in the bank, the company is pressing through midstage development with CMD-003, dosing its first patient in March with plans to expand the trial across 24 centers in 5 countries. At the same time, the company signed a deal to get its hands on a cell therapy manufacturing facility of its own to churn out doses of its antiviral products, advancing on both fronts in hopes of getting its whole pipeline to market.
Investors: Imperial Innovations, Invesco Perpetual and Woodford Investment Management
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-- Damian Garde (email | Twitter)