Imcyse Raises €21.3M to Advance Treatments for MS, Other Diseases

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by Marta Figueiredo PhD |

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Imcyse has raised €21.3 million ($25.8 million) in funding to advance its innovative immunotherapy platform for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) and other severe autoimmune diseases.

The funding was a result of a series B financing round featuring existing investors such as Biogenosis, Société Fédérale de Participations et d’Investissement, and the Catholic University of Leuven, as well as the newest investor Pfizer, which took an equity stake as part of a previously announced licensing agreement.

“Completing this financing round reinforces the strength of the Company, allowing us to advance our programs to the next phase of development,” Denis Bedoret, PhD, Imcyse’s CEO, said in a press release.

“Our aim is to be a major player in active specific immunotherapy,” he said, noting that their lead candidate for type 1 diabetes is moving to a Phase 2 trial, and that they have “four other programs running in multiple sclerosis, neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders, celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis.”

“I would like to express our gratitude to our existing shareholders and to our new investor, Pfizer, for their support and confidence in our Imotope platform,” Bedoret added.

Imcyse’s proprietary Imotope technology platform represents “a next generation and potentially curative approach to severe autoimmune diseases for which there is no satisfactory therapy,” the company stated.

In autoimmune diseases like MS, the immune system wrongly recognizes the body’s own antigens, or fragments of molecules, as foreign, and mounts immune attacks against them.

Rather than triggering a general suppression of the immune system, as is the case with most current therapies for autoimmune diseases, Imcyse’s technology has the potential to specifically suppress the cells that drive these abnormal immune attacks.

It essentially uses the patient’s own immune system to kill the cells involved in these abnormal immune responses. It does so by delivering modified, lab-made peptides (shorter versions of proteins) with a similar structure to the antigen wrongly recognized as foreign.

These peptides, called Imotopes, promote the maturation of antigen-specific cytolytic T-cells, a type of immune cells that can actively kill other cells involved in the abnormal immune attacks against that specific antigen, while leaving the rest of the immune system intact.

By promoting the maturation of these specific immune cells that work against autoimmune responses, Imotopes may help prevent and treat autoimmune diseases without causing generalized immune suppression.

Multiple proof-of-concept studies of Imotopes have already been conducted in MS and other autoimmune disorders, according to Imcyse.

After type 1 diabetes, MS is the company’s most advanced program, with an Imotope candidate that was designed based on myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein, one of the main proteins making up the nerve’s myelin sheath that is wrongly targeted by immune cells in MS. The myelin sheath is the fatty substance that wraps around nerve endings to insulate and protect them.

Preclinical studies showed this therapeutic candidate was effective in two models of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, the most widely used MS mouse model. Clinical trials evaluating this MS-targeting candidate are expected to be launched by 2022.

Proceeds from this funding round will be used to accelerate not only the company’s more advanced programs, but also its early-stage programs of Imotopes targeting neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders, rheumatoid arthritis — in collaboration with Pfizer — and celiac disease.

Imcyse also plans to use its platform to develop candidates for the treatment of allergies, and to prevent transplant rejection and immune reactions against the modified, harmless viruses that are currently used in gene therapies.

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