Anocca AB has raised SEK 400 million ($36.6 million) to further develop the discovery and manufacture of next-generation cell therapies for cancer on an industrial scale.
This will also allow Anocca to develop its first product into clinical trials.
The fund brings together a group of old and new investors, including Mellby Gård, AMF, Michano, Swedbank Robur, Ramsbury, Nidoco and several family offices and private investors.
“In recent years, we have made great progress in automating our research platform. In addition, our precise, large-scale analytical methods have allowed us to generate additional data that strengthens the first products to enter clinical trials. The capital injection will fund the continued expansion of Anocca’s research, development and manufacturing capabilities as well as the commencement of the first clinical trials planned to commence in 2024,” said Reagan Jarvis, CEO of Anocca.
Anocca uses a proprietary analytical method to identify and generate a type of immune cell, T-cell, which has the ability to fight certain tumors. This process is unique and Anocca aims to be the first company to be able on an industrial scale to identify suitable targets on tumor cells and generate suitable T cell receptors (TCR), a type of receptor that controls the activity of the immune system’s T cells. . Each of the active TCRs identified by Anocca could be further developed into highly specialized cancer treatments, or TCR-T therapies.
In recent years, cell therapy has shown enormous potential in cancer treatment. The cell therapy used in practice today, CAR-T, has revolutionized the treatment of several types of cancer, but is effective in less than 10% of all tumors. Nonetheless, CAR-T quickly created a multi-billion dollar market. The next generation of cell therapy, TCR-T, unlike CAR-T, has the potential to target almost any type of cancer.
“Anocca’s unique process creates nearly endless opportunities to produce new TCR-T on an ongoing basis. This means we now have the opportunity to establish the Swedish company as a global leader in cancer care in the future,” said Hans Stråberg, chairman of the board of Anocca.
Anocca was founded in 2014 and currently has 100 employees. The company’s operations include research and manufacturing and are located at the former AstraZeneca facility in Södertälje. In recent years, Anocca has focused on automating and expanding its platform to identify precise targets on tumor cells and match TCRs, while preparing regulatory approvals from manufacturing facilities. Including the current capital increase, Anocca has received SEK 1.3 billion ($120 million) in venture capital. In December, Anocca secured €25 million ($26.5 million) in venture debt financing from the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Anocca process to produce TCR-Ts
Every day, the body’s immune system defeats tumor cells that will develop into cancer. This is achieved in part by the immune system’s T cells, which identify tumor cells through a sophisticated recognition process. Each tumor cell has thousands of different ways to present itself to the body’s T-cells. To recognize all of these variants, each T-cell has a unique receptor. The body can make trillions of different variants of these T-cell receptors (TCR). When the right TCR finds a suitable signal on the tumor cells, the T cells will be activated and effectively destroy the tumor cells. Cancer occurs when a growing tumor overwhelms T-cell defenses.
By systematically recreating and manipulating these complex biological processes in the laboratory, Anocca was able to identify the most effective targets and TCRs for each tumor type. In addition, Anocca takes into account interindividual variations in how specific tumors present to the immune system.
The Anocca process is divided into three parts. The first is to identify the most common way a particular tumor presents itself. Second, the production of a matched TCR to that cancer target, and the third part is validating that the match is robust and safe. Once Anocca has identified and validated the correct TCR – out of a trillion possible – the patient’s white blood cells can be engineered in the laboratory to express the desired TCR. These cells are then reinfused as a treatment. This T-cell therapy modality is called TCR-T.
There are several TCR-Ts in development globally, but Anocca is unique in combining a large-scale approach with very high precision, meaning that the company can produce new, highly specialized TCR-Ts automatically.
Today, Anocca has a rapidly expanding library of TCRs, all of which have the potential to be developed into effective therapies for various types of cancer in several different patient groups.