Global Roundup: Exogene Secures Funding to Support TCR Discovery

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U.K.-based Exogene, which is developing novel T-cell receptor-based cell therapies, secured $2 million in new funding to help advance the development of its artificial intelligence (AI) platform for T-cell receptor discovery.

The funding will be used to support the implementation of a core wet-lab dataset to train and validate Exogene's AI platform. This will allow the company to advance its pilot project with Immunocore. The investment and the wet-lab data set will bring the company one step closer to identifying natural T-cell receptors (TCRs) from human repertoires that are good candidates for TCR-based cell therapies.

TCR-based cell therapies are promising treatments that offer the potential for otherwise untreatable advanced solid tumors. They consist of immune cells, known as T cells, taken from patients' own bodies that are then genetically modified to produce cancer-recognizing T-cell receptors (TCRs). These modified T cells are then reintroduced into patients to destroy cancer cells. Exogene is combining AI with novel, high-throughput screening capabilities in the lab to create a fast, scalable TCR screening platform and identify rare, natural TCRs for cell therapy applications.

"Our AI platform allows us to screen billions of TCRs in a matter of seconds, overcoming the scalability problem of existing wet-lab technologies," Federico Paoletti, chief executive officer of Exogene, said in a statement. "We are delighted with the result of this fundraising round which allows us to strengthen our high-throughput wet-lab TCR screening capabilities, and we are grateful to all our investors for their continued interest and support. This investment brings us one step closer to our goal of identifying new safe and effective cell therapies that will radically improve patient lives."

Exogene intends to partner with industry companies to discover TCRs for therapeutic applications. The company's long-term plan is to develop TCR-based cell therapies to rejuvenate the immune system, by targeting and eliminating senescent T cells that accumulate as we age.

The funding round was led by Selvedge Venture. Additional investors, including R42 Group, Jude Gomila, Nadav Rosenberg, Stefano Bernardi, KQ Labs, Entrepreneur First, Sigmas Group and other angel investors also participated in the funding.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Healome Therapeutics: A spinout of the University of Birmingham, Healome was formed to deploy a platform that delivers a 'pro-healing' microenvironment for the leading causes of preventable blindness. The company's lead focus will be on ocular surface diseases. These are notoriously challenging conditions to treat, and have progressively larger impacts on quality of life as the illnesses run their course. Studies have already shown that one of Healome's formulations has anti-fibrotic (anti-scarring) activity, and these healing properties are augmented by combining it with other therapeutics. Healome will initially concentrate on Dry Eye Disease, but in the long term the company aims to partner with healthcare companies to co-develop new therapeutics for delivery to the surface of the eye.

Sol-Gel Technologies: Israel-based Sol-Gel won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Epsolay, a proprietary cream formulation of benzoyl peroxide, 5%, for the treatment of inflammatory lesions of rosacea in adults. Sol-Gel granted exclusive rights to commercialize Epsolay in the United States to Galderma Holding SA.

Autolus Therapeutics: Based in the U.K., Autolus Therapeutics received Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy (RMAT) designation for its lead therapy, obecabatagene autoleucel (obe-cel), a CD19-directed autologous chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T therapy that is being investigated in the ongoing FELIX Phase II study of adult relapsed / refractory B-Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). The designation is awarded to drug candidates in recognition of the therapy's potential to address significant unmet medical needs in patients with serious or life-threatening conditions.

Red Sea Farms: Based in Saudi Arabia, Red Sea Farms secured $18.5 million to support the company's expansion plans. The fundraising was co-led by Wa'ed, the venture capital arm of Saudi Aramco and The Savola Group, a strategic investment holding group in MENA food and retail.

Visirna Therapeutics: A joint venture from Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals and Vivo Capital, Visirna was formed to expand the reach of innovative medicines in China. Visirna will have exclusive rights to develop and commercialize four of Arrowhead's investigational RNA interference (RNAi) therapeutics for cardiometabolic diseases in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. The new company was also granted $60 million to support its development plans.

Pilloxa: Sweden's Pilloxa signed an agreement with Sahlgrenska University Hospital to provide a digital patient support solution based on their software and smart pillbox for a clinical trial involving Type 1 Diabetes and Addison's Disease patients. Patients with both diseases struggle to balance doses of insulin and cortisone, which are used in the treatment of the ailments. Insulin treatment needs to be adjusted in relation to cortisone and food intake to mimic the physiological endogenous profiles. The trial is expected to provide data that can lead to better understandings of the mitigation of these risks.

Ilya Pharma: Also based in Sweden, Ilya Pharma made a strategic investment in its supply chain to facilitate the development of its ILP pipeline of skin and mucosal immunotherapy drug candidates by acquiring one of its long-term partners, Nordic Bioanalysis. Following the acquisition, Nordic Bioanalysis AB will continue to run as an independent commercial entity. The aim is to expand its already significant customer base, which ranges from big pharma to start-ups entering the regulated product development and validation phases in pharmaceuticals. 

CN Bio: U.K.-based CN Bio, an organ-on-a-chip company, introduced its PhysioMimix' in-a-box' reagent kit for Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), the most severe form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. CN Bio's best-in-class NASH in vitro model supports the urgent development of therapeutics to treat this emerging global healthcare priority. Currently, there are no approved treatments specifically for NASH. In combination with CN Bio's PhysioMimix MPS, the NASH-in-a-box kit provides researchers with in-house capabilities to gain physiologically relevant insights into the mechanism of disease, human drug efficacy and safety toxicology. The assay addresses the human-relevance limitations of existing approaches, bridging the gap between human 2D cell culture and expensive animal models, which are ineffective in mimicking the full disease spectrum.

ProteoNic: Based in the Netherlands, ProteoNic and NecstGen, a CDMO and center of excellence for Cell and Gene Therapy, entered into a partnership for the development of improved viral vector manufacturing for gene therapy applications. Through their combined efforts, ProteoNic and NecstGen aim to improve and advance AAV and LV viral vector manufacturing technology and increase production capacity to benefit patients in need of Gene Therapies.

Xeltis: Also based in the Netherlands, medtech company Xeltis announced preliminary results from a clinical trial of its restorative hemodialysis access graft, aXess, which showed promising early puncturing, patency and safety data. To date, the aXess graft has been implanted in 11 patients, with a median follow-up of 6.5 months. Preliminary data analysis shows promising outcomes on primary endpoints. The current data show 100% functional patency and safety, with no aneurysms or infections reported and excellent ease of use for surgeons and dialysis nurses.

ViGeneron GmbH: Germany-based ViGeneron, a next-generation gene therapy company, entered into a follow-on collaboration with Daiichi Sankyo Company, Limited. Under terms of the partnership, Daiichi Sankyo will utilize ViGeneron's novel engineered recombinant adeno-associated virus vectors (vgAAVs) to address an undisclosed target for the treatment of prevalent eye diseases. Financial terms are not disclosed. The two companies have partnered since 2021. This follow-on collaboration allows the companies to create and validate vgAAV-based therapeutic candidates for the undisclosed target through in-vivo animal studies.

SOTIO Biotech: Czech Republic-based SOTIO dosed the first patient in its Phase I/II CLAUDIO-01 trial of SOT102 in patients with gastric and pancreatic cancer. SOT102 is the lead program of SOTIO's growing ADC pipeline built on multiple platforms. The phase I/II CLAUDIO-01 trial is the first human, open-label, multicenter clinical trial to assess the safety and preliminary efficacy of SOT102 in monotherapy and combination with established standard of care therapies.

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