BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS Innate Pharma, developing cancer therapies through the pharmacological manipulation of nonconventional lymphocytes, has embarked on a second funding round in which it is seeking EUR15 million (US$13 million).

The Marseille-based company was founded in September 1999 and completed an initial funding round in April 2000, raising EUR4.5 million from three European venture capital funds: Paris-based Sofinnova; lead investor, Auriga, also of Paris; and GIMV, of Antwerp, Belgium. This time, CEO Hervé Brailly told BioWorld International, the company launched a broader road show to bring in investors from farther afield. He said he expects the funding to be completed in June.

Meanwhile, Innate Pharma was granted an interest-free loan of EUR2 million from the French National Research Promotion Agency (ANVAR) to fund development of Innacell-gd, Innate’s cell therapy product being developed to treat renal carcinoma, and Phosphostim, a drug for systemic use in treating multiple myeloma.

The products are derived from Innate Pharma’s core technology, which develops immuno-modulating medications and cellular therapies through the stimulation of nonconventional lymphocyte subsets with small molecules. Thanks to the immuno-regulatory properties of gd T cells, they can be administered directly as injectable drugs. And nonconventional lymphocytes are easy to manipulate ex vivo, so the second arm of the company’s strategy is to develop cell therapies from the same compounds.

Brailly explained that Innacell-gd is an ex vivo cell therapy process for the delivery of Phosphostim, a small-molecule agonist of a gd population of lymphocytes that generates strong antitumor activity. He said the company was preparing to initiate a Phase I trial of Innacell-gd in the second half of this year.

The ANVAR credit is being extended under the terms of its “innovation support” program, meaning it is repayable only in the event of commercial success. In Brailly’s view, “the fact that ANVAR is ready to share this risk demonstrates the credibility of Innate Pharma’s technology and business strategy. The very nature of the loan means it is a strong validation of the scientific and clinical relevance of the company’s original concept in cancer immunotherapy.”