BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Scancell Ltd. raised £1.3 million (US$2.3 million) in an interim funding round that will enable it to reach preclinical proof of principle for its ImmunoBody cancer vaccine technology.

CEO Mike Capaldi told BioWorld International, "This was intended as an interim round to get us to some key milestones over the next 15 months. There are some critical proof-of-concept experiments for the ImmunoBody technology, which if positive will significantly increase the value of the company."

Bioscience VCT and Oxford Technology 3 VCT acted as co-lead investors. New investors included Oxford Capital Partners and Cherwell Capital.

Scancell's ImmunoBody technology targets dendritic cells in vivo, eliciting a CD4-mediated helper-cell response, stimulating inflammation at the tumor site, followed by a cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) response in which cells of the immune system are primed to recognize and kill specific cells.

Immunobodies consist of monoclonal antibodies engineered to express tumor-specific helper-cell and CTL epitopes. The antibodies target dendritic cells via the CD64 receptor.

Capaldi said cancer vaccines may not have been proved yet in a commercial sense, "But in our view this is because people have not done the right thing. Our approach, to prime the body to recognize cancer and program the body to reject it, is unique."

Apart from ImmunoBody, Scancell has an antibody discovery platform and three commercial development partnerships: with Genmab A/S of Copenhagen, Denmark; Celltech Group plc, of Slough, UK; and ISU Chemical Co Ltd., of Seoul, South Korea.

The lead antibody SC100, an epidermal growth factor receptor blocker, is being developed by ISU for the treatment of solid tumors. Capaldi said ISU has humanized the antibody and now is doing comparative trials with other EGFR antibodies, and attempting to increase the affinity of SC100.

Another antibody, SC101 against Lewisy/b, is being assessed by Celltech, which recently asked to extend the six-month evaluation period by three months. "We take that as a good sign," Capaldi said. "They want to repeat some of the earlier studies we have done."

Lewisy/b is a cell-surface carbohydrate antigen that is overexpressed in breast, lung, colon and ovarian cancer cells.

SC104, another antibody that recognizes Lewisy/b, also is in preclinical development, along with SC103, which recognizes a lung and bladder tumor-associated glycoprotein. Genmab's deal with Scancell gives it right of first refusal to those two and other antibodies Scancell discovers.

The financing also enables Scancell to move out of laboratories at Nottingham University where it was founded, to BioCity, a new health care and bioscience innovation center in Nottingham, and to recruit Capaldi as CEO.

Capaldi joined Scancell from Synaptica Ltd., an early stage neurodegenerative disease specialist with a focus on Alzheimer's disease. The company spun out of Oxford University and raised £3.5 million in 2001, but Capaldi said the environment over the past two years made it impossible to raise further funds. Synaptica's 15 employees were laid off, but some work continues in two university research projects.

"Synaptica still owns its intellectual property and it hopes to revive it when the market turns up again," Capaldi said.