Britain’s Immunocore completed Europe’s largest ever financing round by a private life sciences company on Thursday, raising $320 million from investors including Eli Lilly & Co, Malin and Woodford Investment Management.
The Oxford-based biotech compnay said it will use the proceeds to accelerate its pipeline of new medicines it calls ImmTACs, next-generation cancer drugs that fight tumours in ways antibody drugs cannot.
The investment by some of the healthcare sector’s “most highly regarded international institutions” is another endorsement of that technology, Immunocore Chief Executive Eliot Forster said in a statement.
“This funding will be invaluable in assisting us to continue the rapid advancement of IMCgp100 in the clinic,” he said, referring to its most advanced drug, used to treat melanoma and which produced positive Phase I and II trial data in April.
Immunocore’s drugs exploit the power of T-cell receptors a part of the immune system — to recognise changes that occur inside cells during cancer or viral infection. ImmTACs then activate the immune system to kill targeted cells.
Traditional antibody-based therapies only recognise changes on the surface of cells.
Analysts believe that such treatments to exploit the power of the body’s immune system may extend patients’ lives significantly and generate tens of billions of dollars in annual sales.
The funding represents further support for Immunocore’s technology, having already signed research and licensing agreements with Lily, Roche, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca.
Immunocore said the new funding was comfortably oversubscribed and a number of its existing investors took part.
Irish life sciences investment firm Malin, which raised 330 million euros ($360.3 million) in one of Europe’s biggest life science stock market debuts in March, said on Thursday that it would seek to raise an additional 42 million euros via a private placement.
It will sell the shares at 10.99 euros, above the 10 euro-per-share issue price in March, to help with its $80 million investment in Immunocore and said expressions of interest had already been received from existing shareholders.
“From a Malin shareholder perspective, the opportunity to be involved in Immunocore is a significant one, and one that we have to take very seriously,” Malin CEO Adrian Howd, who will join the Immunocore board, told Reuters.
“This has probably been one of the most overly subscribed and highly validated rounds I’ve ever seen for a relatively early stage biotech company. We have really landed something here that is of huge potential value.”
Adaptimmune Therapeutics, which co-owns T-cell receptor engineering technology with Immunocore, launched an initial public offering in the United States recently and has a market capitalisation of $1.2 billion.