Belgian cancer vaccine biotech raises over $20m in funding round, attracts more Asian investors

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Design Cells
© GettyImages/Design Cells

Related tags Cancer vaccine Dendritic cells

PDC*line Pharma, a clinical stage biotech company developing cancer vaccines, has completed its Series B2 round of financing, raising a total of €17.5m (US$20.3m) with Belgian and South-Korean investors.

Less than two years after its €20m B1 round of fundraising, in January 2020, the Belgian firm has attracted new investors and secured a further capital increase of €11.8M. In addition, it was awarded a €5.7m grant in repayable aid from the Walloon Region of Belgium.

It has, thus, raised a total of €37.5m in the series B round.

This financing was led by Korea Investment Partners, a leading multi-billion dollar South-Korean fund, with a syndicate of new South-Korean investors in life sciences also involved: Alpha Holdings, Brain Asset Management and Hansongneotech Co. Ltd. Existing investors also participated.

When asked to explain the Asian investor interest in the biotech, Eric Halioua, CEO of PDC*line Pharma, told BioPharma-Reporter that Korean investors are strongly interested in cell and gene therapy developing along with cancer vaccine research.

We signed a licensing deal with the South-Korean conglomerate, LG-Chem, a division of LG, in Q1 2019, and that deal created a lot of awareness about our company and the quality of its science.”

That deal saw LG Chem getting an exclusive license for South Korea, and an option on other Asian countries, for the development and commercialization of the biotech’s PDC*lung01 cancer vaccine candidate targeting Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC). The total deal is worth US$123m (€108.5m), plus tiered royalties on net sales in Asia.

Trial work

Proceeds from the Series B funding round will primarily be used for the phase I/II trial of PDC*lung01, one of a class of active immunotherapies for cancers the company is developing based on a GMP-grade allogeneic therapeutic cell line of plasmacytoid dendritic cells – its PDC*line.

PDC*line is a proprietary cell line derived from a human leukemic patient with the HLA-A*02:01 phenotype. From a fully characterized GMP Master Cell Bank, the cells are easy to expand in synthetic medium in suspension without growth, maturation, or differentiation factors, explained the biotech.

Loaded in vitro​ with HLA-A*02:01-restricted peptides, derived from target tumor antigens that are expressed by the cancer type to be treated, PDC*line is irradiated to stop its proliferation, while keeping its functionality; it can be stored in liquid nitrogen over the long term, said the developer.

When needed, the off-the-shelf product is then thawed and administered by injection to HLA-A*02:01-compatible patients to prime and boost a specific antitumor CD8+ T cell response.

Higher potency 

The biotech claims its PDC*line is much more potent than conventional dendritic cell-based vaccines in priming and boosting antitumor antigen-specific cytotoxic T-cells, including T-cells specific for neoantigens, and that it is synergistic with checkpoint inhibitors.  

“The PDC*line is 20 to 200 times more potent than conventional dendritic cells (DCs), based on published in vitro experiments (Aspord et al., 2010).

“The superiority of PDC*line to prime and expand antigen-specific CD8+ T cells - compared with conventional – myeloid – DCs can be explained by specific features in terms of expression of co stimulatory and co-inhibitory molecules and cytokine receptors.

“We have shown in vitro that PDC*vac synergizes with anti-PD1 antibodies to expand antitumor-specific CD8+ T cells from stage IV melanoma patients. Indeed, in the presence of anti‑PD-1 twice as many melanoma-specific T cells are expanded.

“The synergies are related to the complementary mechanism of actions. Checkpoint inhibitors contribute to break the mechanism of defense of the tumor production PDL1 and the vaccine boosts the immunity,”​ said Halioua. 

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