T-cells' background, T cells
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University of Cambridge spin-out T-Therapeutics announced its series A venture round raised £48 million ($59 million) for the development of novel T-cell receptor (TCR) therapies targeting cancer and inflammatory disorders. The financing was led by Sofinnova Partners, F-Prime Capital, Digitalis Ventures, and Cambridge Innovation Capital. Other participating investors include Sanofi Ventures and the University of Cambridge Venture Fund.

Proceeds of the venture round will be used to further refine the company’s OpTiMus platform, a highly engineered transgenic mouse carrying genes for the human immune system. According to the T-Therapeutics, its platform allows it to create “and almost unlimited repertoire of ‘optimal’ TCRs as building blocks for pioneering therapies.”

Using its approach, the team at T-Therapeutics aims to address a couple of major shortcomings in the current development of TCR treatments: that they only target a specific set of cancers and lack specificity, which can lead to significant adverse events.

“TCR therapeutics are very much at the dawn of their potential. We intend to replicate the success of therapeutic antibodies but build on this in a new dimension, by using the targeting domains of TCR receptors to take advantage of their much greater specificity for cancer cells compared to normal cells,” said prof. Allan Bradley, CEO of T-Therapeutics.

The company’s transgenic mouse platform generates humanized TCRs via immunization of the mice with human peptides. This method creates humanized TCRs that don’t exist in the human repertoire. “This provides…an almost unlimited supply of TCRs which have unique properties in terms of activity, affinity, half-life and diversity,” the company notes on its website.

Once created, T-Therapeutics applies machine learning techniques to select the most active molecules that can be used as the building blocks for potential TCR cancer therapies.

“By engineering a mouse that makes human TCRs, we are able to discover anti-cancer TCRs that are quantitatively and qualitatively better than those that can currently be isolated from humans or using display technologies,” Bradley added. “Our OpTiMus platform provides an unbeatable starting point, a vast repertoire of unique, fully human TCRs, with the properties to make them ideal to develop into drugs.”

The company refers to the molecules it creates for new therapies as T-Bridge molecules that are unique therapies that target not only a specific cancer or disease, but are also created based on the underlying genetic makeup of each patient.

T-Bridge molecules are designed to make precision medicine a reality by combining advanced genetic therapies with cutting-edge diagnostic tools, providing individualized treatments for cancer as well as autoimmune disorders and infectious diseases.

Graziano Seghezzi, managing partner at Sofinnova Partners, said: “Our investment in T-Therapeutics is a reflection of our conviction in both the exceptional team and the transformative technology they’ve brought forward. T-Therapeutics represents the kind of groundbreaking venture Sofinnova is deeply committed to, which has the potential to redefine healthcare.”

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