Houston’s Bellicum Pharma Rides T-Cell Therapy Wave to $140M IPO

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with a surface protein that helps them latch onto antibodies. And companies in the space are combating ways to fend off an overdrive of the immune system called cytokine release syndrome that these immunotherapies can provoke.

Bellicum’s twist on all of this is what it calls “Chemical Induction of Dimerization” technology. Think of it as a “safety switch:” patients’ immune cells are embedded with an on/off switch, so that, in theory, these immune system attacks can be prevented.

One drug candidate, BPX-501, for instance, is designed with a cell-suicide mechanism that can be triggered to force it to kill cells gone rogue. “The product allows the physician to not have to worry about graft versus host (GVH) disease,” Bellicum CEO Tom Farrell told me in an interview this past August. “The cells can be eliminated in the event that GVH occurs.”

Bellicum is developing that as an adjunct therapy administered after a bone marrow transplant. It’s currently being tested in several Phase 1/2 clinical trials that are expected to produce data next year.

The company’s second therapy, BPX-201, is a vaccine that consists of dendritic cells that are programmed to fight prostate cancer. (The vaccine is made from the patient’s own white blood cells.) That’s being tested in an early-stage study as well.

Bellicum additionally has a few other preclinical candidates in its pipeline that it’s developing as cellular immunotherapies for blood cancers, solid tumors, and melanoma. They’ll begin trials either next year or in 2016.

The company will use the money to pay for those studies, for capital improvements at its facility in Houston, and to make new hires.

The largest shareholder before the offering, a 20.5 percent stake, was New York-based Baker Biotech Capital. Houston-based McGuyer Investments is next with a 14.9 percent stake. Rounding out the top five shareholders are Remeditex Ventures (12.2 percent), a healthcare venture capital firm in Dallas; Kevin Slawin (11.2 percent), Bellicum’s co-founder and current chief medical and chief technology officers; and AVG Ventures (6.1 percent) in Walnut Creek, CA.

Last August, Bellicum raised $55 million in a Series C round of venture capital, bringing its total funds raised to $107 million. The company was also one of the first recipients of funding from the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas, which awarded the firm $6.2 million.

Deputy Biotechnology Editor Ben Fidler contributed to this report.

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One response to “Houston’s Bellicum Pharma Rides T-Cell Therapy Wave to $140M IPO”

  1. TBB says:

    Congratulations to Kevin and David….remember watching you guys drawing on a napkin in the doctor’s lounge.