BioWorld International Correspondent

T-cellic A/S, a Danish firm developing cancer therapy that uses a patient's own T cells as drug carriers to home in on tumors, raised DKK40 million (US$6.2 million) in second round financing, boosting its total funding to date to DKK82 million.

L nmodtagernes Dyrtidsfond (LD Pensions), Denmark's state pension fund, joined existing investors V kstfonden (the Danish Growth Fund) and Scandinavian Life Science Venture in the transaction.

"We expect with the new round that we will have another two years [of cash], and that is what we asked for because that will take us into the Phase I clinic," Elsebeth Budolfsen, CEO of the H rsholm-based company, told BioWorld International.

T-cellic's strategy, which it calls T-cell guided therapy, is based on exploiting the specificity of T cells for their target antigens to deliver cytotoxic drugs or imaging agents to the site of a tumor. It has developed a proprietary method for isolating tumor-specific T cells, which are cultured and then loaded up with the appropriate molecule. The cells actually incorporate the molecule of interest internally and then release it at the site of the tumor following an activation step. It has developed three methods for triggering the process, involving the application of an external signal, a time-based mechanism or the use of neutron capture therapy.

The overall technique was developed by Hans J rgen Gundersen at the University of Aarhus in Denmark. T-cellic is using melanoma as a model system and has so far achieved proof of principle in animals with a radioisotope.

"Incorporating an isotope which is irradiating the cell while it is in there is quite challenging," Budolfsen said. "It is a very important step to show that we could do that in a live model."

The technique offers a degree of sensitivity not available with current cancer diagnostics, Budolfsen said. The approach can pinpoint tumors that are 3 mm in diameter and can be applied to treatment monitoring in order to detect metastases. It also could be used in other disease settings, such as multiple sclerosis and tuberculosis.

"That's a more long-term ambition, because obviously, like everyone else, we need to focus," she said.

The main focus for now is on cancer therapy, specifically on administering localized doses of known drugs that have been modified to make them amenable to the delivery and activation process. Because of the specificity of the targeting technique, the company hopes that the systemic effects associated with most forms of cancer therapy will be minimized, even though the dose delivered to the tumor site will be quite high. Budolfsen said T cells can carry up to a million times more drug than cancer-specific antibodies.