Cancer immunotherapy developer TCR² Therapeutics has raised $75 million in an IPO, which it will use for clinical trials to test a type of immunotherapy intended to treat a wider range of cancers than current cell therapies.
Late Wednesday, TCR² priced its offering of 5 million shares at $15 apiece. The Cambridge, MA, company had initially targeted an offering of 5.7 million shares in the range of $14 to $16 each. TCR² shares are expected to begin trading later today on the Nasdaq Exchange under the stock symbol “TCRR.”
TCR² is developing a type of cancer immunotherapy called T cell receptor (TCR) therapy. Like chimeric-antigen receptor (CAR-T) cell therapies, TCR uses T cells, the soldiers of the immune system, to hunt down and kill cancer cells. These therapies are made by engineering a patient’s own T cells to recognize cancer cells. The cells are then infused back into the patient. When these engineered T cells bind to cancer cells, they trigger a signaling cascade that leads to the death of the target cells.
CAR-T treatments from Novartis (NYSE: NVS) and Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD) have already been approved for the treatment of aggressive blood cancers. But CAR-T therapies haven’t had much success against solid tumors and that’s where TCR² says its approach could have an advantage. Unlike CAR-T, which engages only part of the immune signaling process, TCR² says in its prospectus that its therapies stimulate the entire T cell receptor complex, which could make these treatments work for both solid tumors and blood cancers.
TCR²’s lead therapeutic candidate, TC-210, targets solid tumors that make a protein called mesothelin. In January, the FDA cleared the company to start testing the drug in Phase 1 studies. The company says in its prospectus that it will test the drug in ovarian cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, malignant pleural/peritoneal mesothelioma, and cholangiocarcinoma. Preliminary data are expected in the second half of this year.
Another experimental TCR² therapy, TC-110, is nearing human testing as a treatment for blood cancers. The company plans to apply for the FDA green light for a clinical trial in the second half of this year.
TCR² was founded in 2015 based on the research of Patrick Baeuerle, a cancer immunologist and executive partner at investment firm MPM Capital. Baeuerle’s research has led to the founding of a number of companies, including Harpoon Therapeutics (NASDAQ: HARP), Cullinan Oncology, and Maverick Therapeutics.
Last year, TCR² spent $13.4 million on research and development through the third quarter, according to the prospectus. Following the IPO, the company says it will spend $25 million to $30 million to complete Phase 1/2 testing of its lead TCR therapy. Between $35 million and $40 million is earmarked for the company’s lead blood cancer therapy. The rest of the IPO cash will be used for additional clinical testing, and for further development of the proprietary TCR² technology.
TCR² has raised nearly $170 million in financing, most recently a $125 million Series B round last March. The company’s largest shareholder is MPM Capital, which held a 19.1 percent stake prior to the offering, according to the prospectus.
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