Sector News

Gates invests in Immunocore to spur infectious disease R&D

September 18, 2017
Life sciences

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is investing up to $40 million in Immunocore to spur research into the use of T cell receptor (TCR)-based therapeutics to treat tuberculosis and HIV.

Immunocore is primarily known for its work in cancer. That is what prompted AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline and Roche’s Genentech to strike deals with Immunocore, and what underpinned its $320 million (€268 million) round in 2015. But, while cancer drugs dominate its pipeline from the IND-enabling stage onward, Immunocore’s early-stage teams are also working on autoimmune and infectious disease programs.

Oxford, U.K.-based Immunocore’s infectious disease work has attracted the attention of the Gates Foundation, prompting the world’s largest charitable foundation to invest up to $40 million in the company. Immunocore will use the money to advance programs against tuberculosis and HIV.

Both programs are in preclinical stages, but Immunocore has generated data to support the idea of using TCR-based therapeutics to treat infectious diseases. Last year, Immunocore released in vitro data showing its molecules turn the immune system against HIV-infected CD4+ T-cells, suggesting they may be able to wipe out reactivated HIV reservoir cells.

Immunocore will use some of the Gates Foundation investment to fund R&D into these ImmTAVs, immune-mobilizing monoclonal TCRs against viruses. Another tranche will support work into a related, bacteria-focused class of monoclonal TCRs, ImmTABs, which could orchestrate similar attacks on tuberculosis.

The programs benefit from Immunocore’s work to fuse TCRs to humanized CD3-specific single chain variable fragments to treat cancer.

The investment by the Gates Foundation is reminiscent of others it has made in biotechs. Kymab, another British biotech, and Lodo Therapeutics are among the biotechs to receive investment from the nonprofit. In each case, the involvement of the Gates Foundation has enabled the biotech to apply its drug discovery platform and R&D capabilities to diseases beyond those prevalent in the West that attract investment from traditional VCs, such as cancer.

“We have to find that match where we’re not distracting a company, but we’re actually emboldening and supporting a company by becoming their partner and considering the whole world, not just one sector of the market,” Gates Foundation partner Charlotte Hubbert said last year.

In the case of Immunocore, that means providing a source of earmarked cash and support so the biotech can step up its infectious disease R&D while continuing to advance the cancer programs on which its reputation and prospects rest.

By Nick Paul Taylor

Source: Fierce Biotech

comments closed

Related News

June 22, 2024

Ferring launches online assessment tool, educational platform around male fertility

Life sciences

Because infertility is often branded largely as a women’s issue, many men may be unaware of their own possible role in the matter and may not undergo testing in a timely manner—even though research has shown that men “substantially” contribute to about half of all cases of infertility.

June 22, 2024

Johnson & Johnson blueprints €125M plant upgrade as part of 5-year Italy investment

Life sciences

After plugging nearly 50 million euros into its Italy R&D in the first half of the decade, Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine is significantly upping its commitment to the country. Over the next five years, J&J Innovative Medicine, which recently rebranded from Janssen, will plug a projected 580 million euros ($621.7 million) into its Italian business, the company said in a press release.

June 22, 2024

India’s Lupin announces CEO pick for new subsidiary as it moves into the CDMO arena

Life sciences

From vitamin maker to pharmaceutical specialist and now contract manufacturer, India’s Lupin is embarking on a new phase of its corporate journey. Lupin on Monday unveiled its new subsidiary, Lupin Manufacturing Solutions, which is poised to work on the development, production and sale of active pharmaceutical ingredients.

How can we help you?

We're easy to reach