Adicet Bio Inc.'s relatively newly minted president and CEO, Anil Singhal, found the company heading in the right direction when he took over in May, and the company's good standing, including a new $80 million series B fundraiser, is a result of that earlier stewardship.
"The company has very capable people," Singhal told BioWorld. "The company was established in 2015 and has been optimizing over the years, so the platform was already in good shape."
Adicet was founded by Orbimed, which participated in the new financing, and Aya Jakobovits, who previously served as president and founding CEO of Kite Pharma Inc. Singhal brought plenty of experience with him, including the chief scientific officer's role at Oncoresponse Inc. and serving as vice president of early oncology development at Abbvie Inc., where he oversaw the global regulatory approval for Empliciti (elotuzumab) to treat multiple myeloma.
He said he pushed the idea of getting an Adicet IND moving forward and getting a clinical study for a benchmark to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma and broadening the company portfolio into both solid and liquid tumor treatments. The biggest push, he added, is moving Adicet into becoming a product development company.
Menlo Park, Calif.-based Adicet develops allogeneic cell therapies for cancer using gamma delta T cells. A little more than three years ago, Adicet began a strategic collaboration with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. to develop next-generation engineered immune cell therapeutics using Adicet's gamma delta T-cell allogeneic platform technology. The $25 million up-front, five-year deal is designed to create off-the-shelf immune cell therapies that could attack solid tumors as well as blood cancers. The goal is to engineer immune cells with fully human CARs and T-cell receptors (TCRs) directed to disease-specific cell surface antigens. (See BioWorld, Aug. 3, 2016.)
Adopting autologous cell therapies have been dogged by problems, including issues with manufacturing, their availability, safety, consistency and high production costs. To minimize those troubles, Adicet's allogeneic gamma delta T cells are a minor lymphocyte population but are found in larger numbers in tissues where they exhibit immune monitoring, antiviral, antitumor and antimicrobial functions. Those T cells recognize pathogen-stressed and transformed target cells and facilitate activation in an allogeneic setting without the concern of graft-vs.-host disease. Adicet's preclinical research indicated improved control of subcutaneous Raji tumors by gamma delta 1 CD20 CAR T cells.
"The platform is unique because gamma T cells bind to a target," Singhal said. "You don't have to do gene editing to knock down T-cell receptors."
Singhal plans to get into the clinic in the first half of 2020 in a phase I study. "It's important to benchmark a treatment," he added.
At the end of September, the company also got a new senior vice president and chief medical officer. Francesco Galimi came to Adicet from Amgen Inc., where he had been its global program general manager for early development. He oversaw some of Amgen's oncology programs from pre-IND to late-stage development. Before Amgen, he spent time at Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s oncology clinical development group.
Existing investors Orbimed, Novartis Venture Fund and Pontifax participated in the financing, along with new investors aMoon2 Fund, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., Johnson & Johnson Innovation, OCI Enterprises Inc., KB Investment Co. Ltd., Consensus Business Group, SBI JI Innovation Fund, Samsung Venture Investment Corp., Handok Inc. and DSC Investment Inc. Joining the company's board are representatives of aMoon Fund and Johnson & Johnson. RM Global Partners LLC was Adicet's advisor for the financing.
Adicet raised a $51 million in a series A financing nearly four years ago. (See BioWorld, Jan. 27, 2016.)