TCR² Raises $125M to Move Ahead with Its Cell Therapy, CAR-T’s Cousin

Xconomy Boston — 

TCR² Therapeutics has raised a $125 million Series B round to push ahead with live, cancer-fighting T cells.

T cell receptor (TCR) therapies, the firm’s area of focus, have not progressed as far as higher-profile CAR-T treatments, despite similarities. Few TCRs have advanced into clinical studies, while two CAR-T cell therapies, one from Novartis (NYSE: NVS) and one now owned by Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD), notched FDA approvals last year.

TCR therapies are a sort of CAR-T cousin. Both start with live T cells, the immune system’s attack dogs, and add genetic modifications to make the cells seek out specific tumor targets. TCR therapies, however, are meant to recognize targets inside a tumor cell, while CAR-T cells attack targets on the tumor surface. (CAR stands for chimeric antigen receptor.)

Cambridge, MA-based TCR² has not begun human testing, but it said today the new cash should help push two candidates, including one that targets cancers with the protein mesothelin, through Phase 2 studies.

CAR-T cell therapies have shown strong results fighting blood-borne cancers like lymphoma and leukemia but have yet to crack more common solid tumors, including breast, lung, and colon cancers. TCR therapies could be more effective against solid tumors because of their ability to reach different targets, but those hopes are backed with little clinical evidence to date. Philadelphia and U.K.-based Adaptimmune (NASDAQ: ADAP) is one of the few firms involved in multiple human studies.

TCR²’s B round was led by 6 Dimensions Capital and Curative Ventures. Several other new investors joined, as did the investors who provided the firm’s Series A round in 2016.

Image of T cell courtesy of NIAID via Creative Commons.