British Scancell is going for a private placement to raise up to £5M (€5.9M). The funds should back the company’s clinical pipeline of new cancer vaccines.
Based in Nottingham, Scancell is working on the development of several cancer vaccines arising from its two platforms ImmunoBody and Moditope. In order to push its second vaccine candidate Modi-1 into the clinic, the company raised £5M (€5.9M) today from institutional investors.
Modi-1 is the first product resulting from Scancell’s Moditope platform, which exploits the fact that proteins in tumor cells often undergo citrullination as a result of cellular stress. Modi-1 consists of the citrullinated form of two peptides from the cytoskeletal protein vimentin.
Scancell’s CEO Richard Goodfellow told us, “We get 100% survival in preclinical models — we’ve never seen the likes of this in immunotherapy.” He added, “One of the key differences is that most vaccines are best combined with checkpoint inhibitors, but Modi-1 overcomes natural immunosuppression.” The company plans to begin Phase I/II trials with the vaccine in sarcomas, breast and ovarian cancers in autumn 2018.
Additionally, the funds should also support the ongoing clinical development of Scancell’s lead product, SCIB1. This DNA vaccine has already completed a Phase I/II trial in patients with metastatic melanoma. The company is set to file an IND with the FDA this year to conduct a Phase II trial of SCIB1 in metastatic melanoma patients together with a checkpoint inhibitor.
While big pharma is racing to expand into the cancer market with its checkpoint inhibitors, Goodfellow told us that Scancell’s approach is “completely different.” Indeed, first preclinical data indicates that the biotech’s SCIB1 candidate significantly enhances treatment with checkpoint inhibitors, raising hopes for its planned Phase II trials.
However, a number of players are also going for cancer vaccines. German BioNTech recently entered a massive deal with Genentech to develop personalized mRNA vaccines that speaks to the excitement in the area, as Goodfellow pointed out. Other players include Norwegian Targovax, which already has two peptide vaccines in its clinical pipeline targeting several solid tumors, and French Transgene, targeting breast cancer and sarcoma with its oncolytic vaccine that is already in Phase III trials.
Even though the field seems quite crowded already, there is optimism that chances for the next generation of cancer vaccines are good. As Goodfellow explained, “There have been a succession of failures in cancer vaccines that caused some skepticism – but it’s now back in fashion.”
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