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Lilly partner Immunocore raises record $320 million

July 16, 2015

Eli Lilly and Co. partner Immunocore Ltd., which this week achieved the biggest private fundraising by a European biotechnology firm in 10 years, plans to accelerate development of its cancer therapy using the money and seek expedited approval.

The Abingdon, England-based company is in talks with U.S. and European regulators on “all options”—including getting orphan drug status and a breakthrough therapy designation—that could lead to faster consent to sell IMCgp100 for treating melanoma, CEO Eliot Forster said Thursday. An announcement may be made in the fourth quarter, he said.

The closely held company, which has partnerships with Indianapolis-based Lilly and London-based AstraZeneca Plc, raised $320 million in funds from Lilly, as well as Woodford Investment Management, Malin Corp. and existing investors. Immunocore plans to use the funds to build a pipeline of drugs targeting a broad range of solid cancer tumors.

Following the discussions with regulators, Immunocore may start a large mid-stage trial of IMCgp100 for melanoma early next year, Forster said. Immunocore is also involved in separate clinical trials that combine IMCgp100 with cancer compounds from Lilly and London-based AstraZeneca.

Without the funds raised, “we couldn’t have had the luxury of running all of these large trials in parallel,” the CEO said. “We would have had to stagger these trials more.”

The company’s immuno-oncology technology is able to distinguish cancer cells from healthy cells by identifying peptides that emerge from inside the cells, Forster said. Its injectable treatment, called ImmTAC, then attracts T cells that attack those cancer cells.

Lilly shares were up 40 cents Thursday morning, to $86.78 each.

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