London-based biotech Quell Therapeutics can now advance its T regulatory (Treg) cell therapies to the next stage with proceeds from its oversubscribed $156M Series B funding round.
Quell was founded in 2019 based on research from Kings College, UCL and Hannover Medical School, with a $45M Series A launch, including a large investment from lead investor Syncona, set up by the Wellcome Trust as an independent investment organization in 2012.
Quell is one of several companies focusing on developing cell therapies to target immune system problems outside the cancer sphere, for example, autoimmune diseases. Others in this space include Californian biotech Parvus Therapeutics, which has a similar focus to Quell.
Quell plans to use some of the new funding to begin a Phase I/II trial of its lead candidate, a combined CAR-Treg cell therapy developed to stop organ rejection in patients receiving liver transplants. This therapy aims to reduce the risk of organ rejection to such an extent that patients will not need to take long term immunosuppressive drugs, which come with many side effects including increasing infection and cancer risk for recipients.
“The progress made by the Quell team, led by Iain McGill, is remarkable,” commented Martin Murphy, CEO of Syncona Investment Management Limited, in a press statement. “The business has moved from concept-to-clinic in under three years – we are excited to see its pioneering lead program enter the clinic this year.”
The UK investor also contributed $25 million to the new round, which was co-led by specialist investors Jeito Capital, Ridgeback Capital Investments, SV Health Investors and Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC. Syncona will own 37% of the company, after the Series B completes. The holding value of Quell is now estimated at $98.5M, an increase of approximately 4 cents per share.
The new round also included new investment from British Patient Capital through its Future Fund: Breakthrough program, Janus Henderson Investors, Monashee Investment Management, Point72 and funds managed by Tekla Capital Management LLC.
In addition to progressing its lead CAR-Treg cell therapy to clinical trials, Quell also plans to develop further therapeutics in the areas of transplantation, neuroinflammatory diseases and autoimmune diseases.
The recent cancer immunotherapy revolution has brought CAR T-cell therapy to the fore, with several such therapies now approved and on the market. Treg-based therapies are also being developed to treat cancer, but they also have a lot of potential for treating other immune conditions due to their ability to dampen down the immune system when overstimulated such as during an autoimmune flare-up.
Quell’s chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) engineered Tregs can be easily manufactured, according to the company, and are able to target certain areas of the body using antigen targeting that focuses the power of these Tregs and allows them to suppress specific disease-causing cells.
“As a leader in Treg cell therapies engineering for serious medical conditions, Quell is ultimately driving development of potentially transformative therapies to address diseases driven by the immune system with major unmet medical needs,” said Houman Ashrafian, Managing Partner of SV Health Investors.