Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Sinks $40 Million Into Immunocore for Infectious Disease R&D

Published: Sep 19, 2017

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Sinks $40 Million Into Immunocore for Infectious Disease R&D September 18, 2017
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invested up to $40 million in Oxford, UK-based Immunocore. Immunocore is a T-cell Receptor (TCR) company that has largely focused on immuno-oncology, but is making the transition to infectious diseases.

The Gates Foundation’s investment is in support of Immunocore’s ImmTAV (Immune mobilizing monoclonal TCRs Against Virus) and ImmTAB (Immune mobilizing monoclonal TCRs Against Bacteria) therapeutics. The collaboration will also aim the two programs at tuberculosis (TB) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

John Carroll, writing for Endpoints News, said, “While Immunocore is known primarily for its work using soluble T cell receptors and combining them with antibody fragments to create new cancer therapies, part of the second wave of new tech coming in behind CAR-T, the foundation is using its cash to point Immunocore to one of the Holy Grails in HIV research—eliminating the reservoir of virus that lies hidden and dormant inside patients’ cells whose disease is kept under wraps by the cocktail therapies that make up a multibillion dollar market. Gates’ investment is also funding a program for tuberculosis.”

The investment made by the Gates Foundation is part of its program-related investments (PRI) strategy. The PRI’s focus is on stimulating private sector-driven innovation, with an eye toward encouraging market-driven efficiencies and bringing in external capital.

“The Foundation is committed to supporting and translating scientific research that can have transformative impact on those conditions that cause the greatest burden of morbidity and mortality in the world at large,” said Chris Karp, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s director of Discovery & Translational Sciences, in a statement. “We are excited to support the development of Immunocore’s TCR-based platform because we believe these treatments have the potential to make a fundamental difference in the lives of patients infected with TB and HIV.”

Immunocore is a private company and intends to stay that way, unlike its former “sister company” Adaptimmune . Immunocore’s chief executive officer, Eliot Forster, told Carroll, “We’re private now and that’s fine for us.”

In order to remain private, the company has been organizing a massive round of financing that would give the company a value of over $1 billion—for a company that generates no revenue yet. However, the company is expecting data from pivotal trials on ocular melanoma. In June, at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting, the company released proof-of-concept data from a small trial that showed a median progression free survival rate in ocular melanoma of 5.6 months. And the six-month PFS value was 57 percent.

In addition, Forster says, “Just behind that, there’s a clinical pact with AstraZeneca on cutaneous melanoma, and that is going well.”

In July, the company announced that GlaxoSmithKline had chosen a third target as part of the two companies’ ongoing oncology discovery collaboration for multiple novel targets not addressable with antibody-based technologies. Immunocore will create a novel ImmTAC molecule against the chosen target, which is related to several cancers.

Of the Gates Foundation investment, Forster said in a statement, “Many infectious diseases continue to represent a huge and growing global challenge. We’re delighted and honored that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the most significant forces for positive change in global healthcare, has recognized the potential of Immunocore’s platform technology for advancing novel therapeutics for infectious diseases such as TB and HIV.”

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