ImmPACT Bio Gains $111M, a New Leader and Positive Trial Results

ImmPACT Bio provided an optimistic update on a Phase I clinical study evaluating its CD19-CD20 bi-specific Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy.

ImmPACT Bio President and CEO Sumant Ramachandra, M.D., Ph.D/Couresty ImmPACT Bio

Today, ImmPACT Bio of Camarillo, CA, announced the closing of $111 million in Series B financing, named a new board chair, new president and CEO, and provided promising updates on its Phase I clinical study in relapsed/refractory B-cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (R/R B-cell NHL).

The company appointed Sumant Ramachandra, M.D., Ph.D. as president and chief executive officer. Dr. Ramachandra brings more than 30 years of experience in healthcare and expertise in the leadership, development and research of pharmaceutical and medical device industries. Ramachandra will also join ImmPACT Bio’s board.

“In some ways, I’ve described this as coming home,” Ramachandra, whose Ph.D. is in experimental pathology in the study of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), told BioSpace. “I think that the personal connection to the lead program as well as the concept of making a difference in people’s lives was really key for me in joining this company.”

To that end, ImmPACT Bio provided an optimistic update on its Phase I clinical study evaluating its CD19-CD20 bi-specific Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy in patients with R/R B-cell NHL. Seven of eight patients treated with the drug achieved, and remain in, complete remission following a 12-month median follow-up. The therapy provided a promising tolerability profile with no treatment-related neurotoxicity and no patients experienced cytokine release syndrome above grade 1.

Ramachandra said ImmPACT Bio is looking forward to moving into Phase II trials in early 2023 where it will continue to look for strong efficacy, long durability and an acceptable tolerability profile.

In patients diagnosed with B-cell NHL, the body produces abnormal B-cell lymphocytes which build up in lymph nodes or other organs, reducing the body’s ability to fight infection because the cells are not fully mature. CD19 and CD20, membrane antigens of B-lymphocytes, are biomarkers of the disease as an overabundance of the protein indicates the presence of cancer. By using CAR-T therapy, clinicians and researchers can take a patient’s T-cells and genetically engineer them to produce receptors for CD19 and CD20, allowing them to attack and eliminate cancerous B-cells. ImmPACT Bio’s CD19-CD20 CAR-T therapy is unique because it addresses antigen escape with an OR-gate, allowing the T-cell to recognize two surface antigens before mutations can cause the loss of CD19 receptors. Antigen escape is a current challenge for approved CD19 therapies.

The company raised $18 million in Series A financing in August 2020 for the development of novel cell therapies for treating cancers. The Series B financing is led by venBio Partners and co-led by Foresite Capital, Decheng Capital, Surveyor Captial, along with the company’s existing investors. ImmPACT Bio plans to use these funds to pursue Phase II trials of the CD19-CD20 CAR-T therapy as soon as possible, as well as hire strong management teams to support clinical manufacturing, analytical development and process development. It is also breaking ground on a new facility in Los Angeles for clinical manufacturing and quality and research labs.

Sheila Gujrathi, M.D. was named as board chair, bringing her deep experience in leading biotech companies. Dr. Gujrathi is currently a venture advisor at OrbiMed and serves as executive chair of Ventyx Biosciences, chair of ADARx Pharmaceuticals and director of Janux Therapeutics.

“ImmPACT Bio possesses an innovative and proprietary CAR T-cell platform, compelling clinical and early-stage assets and a dynamic leadership team. Today’s announcement of the company’s Series B financing bolsters the potential to transform the oncology therapeutic landscape,” Gujrathi said. “I’m thrilled to join as board chair and help ImmPACT Bio achieve its vision of developing transformative oncology medicines for cancer patients who have exhausted their treatment options.”

With new leadership and funding, ImmPACT Bio looks forward to pursuing its other therapies, which are in the preclinical stages. These include a TGF-β CAR therapy that aims to overcome the tumor microenvironment in solid tumors in order to eliminate them, and an Inhibitory-CAR Activator-CAR (i-CAR a-CAR) therapy that engineers T-cells to be as direct to cancerous cells as possible while having the ability to protect normal cells.

Beyond the current programs, Ramachandra hopes ImmPACT Bio can address other unmet oncological needs, such as localized delivery of CAR-T cell therapies for difficult to remove cancers and immunosurveillance to prevent recurrence. Whatever comes next, he said, “The patient is the number one focus for us. Period.”