Boston Neighbors Net $256 Million for Treg and Allosteric Therapies
Helping the immune system better help itself, Quell Therapeutics scooped up an impressive $156 million in its Series B round this week. The company utilizes regulatory T cells to tackle immune dysfunction to treat various autoimmune and inflammatory diseases and protect patients from transplant rejection.
Based out of London with a presence in Boston, Quell is two years old with two named candidates already in the pipeline, alongside multiple undisclosed programs. Proceeds from the round will be funneled into its pipeline, driving its lead program into the clinic.
QEL-001 is closest to its debut for liver transplant patients to prevent the immune system from rejecting the donated organ. While a liver transplant can be the “cure” to a patient’s disease, the lifelong side effects are a burden to live with. Daily immunosuppression medications leave patients open to infection and cancer development. Quell’s transplant program aims to achieve tolerance, which would enable patients to live without the need for lifelong immunosuppressive medication.
Recruitment for QEL-100 is starting before the New Year to commence in the first quarter of 2022. The LIBERATE Phase I/II trial will be the first-ever in-human of an engineered Treg cell therapy.
Additionally, Quell is advancing its pipeline in neuroinflammatory diseases like AML and autoimmune diseases, including Type 1 diabetes.
“Quell is at the forefront of a new wave of cell therapy. We are leading the way with our highly differentiated, multi-modular approach to Treg therapy engineering and production,” said Iain McGill, Quell’s founding CEO.
McGill came to Quell from Ireland-based Jazz Pharmaceuticals, a company with FDA-approved drugs for neuroscience and oncology.
Quell’s Boston neighbor HotSpot Therapeutics is coming in flush with another financing round for 2021. After raising $65 million in May, HotSpot completed a $100 million Series C just in time for the holidays.
HotSpot has spent the last three years developing allosteric therapies, drugs that bind to a receptor to change the receptor’s response to a stimulus. Named for its angle, the biotech company’s bind to proteins “natural hotspots,” pockets of decisive protein function that have yet to be targeted by other approaches.
Like most biotechs today, HotSpot’s platform utilizes AI to data-mine an extensive library of disease-causing proteins and identify pockets to target. So far, the company has uncovered multiple classes to aim its Therapeutics at, including E3 ligases, kinases, and transcription factors. The primary focus has been on cancer and autoimmune drivers, focusing on defining the correct disease targets for their molecules.
New data has proven the company’s Smart Allostery platform with the first and, so far, only small molecule inhibitor of CBL-B, which can offer increased immunotherapy efficacy for cancer patients who have had otherwise had poor responses treatments.
In addition to its CBL-B candidate, HotSpot also has programs in the works targeting the IRF5 transcription factor. Interferon Regulatory Factors or IRFs have an important role in regulating immunity, either leading to suppression or hyper-activation, both of which can encourage disease development. IRF5 is associated with an increased risk of systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease.
A third candidate targets PKC-theta kinase C, which, when dysregulated, is associated with the most common leukemia in the western world.
This Series C will funnel funds into expanding the product pipeline while accelerating the current candidates toward the clinic. Plans are in the works for a clinical trial next year, targeting lung cancer. HotSpot doubled its staff size during the pandemic at a time when many companies experienced downsizing and layoffs.