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Adaptimmune raises $104 mln to develop immune-system cancer drugs

LONDON, Sept 25 (Reuters) – British biotechnology company Adaptimmune has raised $104 million in venture capital to fund its work in developing a new range of drugs based on immune-system cells.

The Oxford-based private company plans to use the money to advance its programmes to clinical trials against multiple types of cancer, it said on Thursday.

The oversubscribed funding round was one of the past decade’s biggest for an early stage biotech project, illustrating the growing interest in the potential of harnessing the power of the body’s own immune system to fight tumours.

Adaptimmune does this in a different way to so-called “checkpoint inhibitor” drugs being developed by companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck & Co, Roche and AstraZeneca.

Its cancer therapies work by re-engineering the patient’s own T-cells – a type of white blood cell – to target and destroy cancerous or infected cells. The approach is similar to the CAR-T technology being developed by Novartis.

Adaptimmune is running trials across the United States in multiple myeloma, melanoma, sarcoma and ovarian cancer – and its work was endorsed in June when it clinched a deal with GlaxoSmithKline worth up to $350 million.

GSK signed the deal six weeks after agreeing to sell its existing cancer drugs to Novartis, indicating the British drugmaker’s continuing interest in cancer research despite the sale of its commercial operations.

Adaptimmune’s funding round was led by New Enterprise Associates. Additional new investors included OrbiMed Advisors, Wellington Management Company, Fidelity Biosciences, Foresite Capital Management, Ridgeback Capital Management, Novo A/S, QVT, Rock Springs Capital, venBio Select and Merlin Nexus. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by David Goodman)