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21 October 2021

King's spin out Leucid Bio wins funding boost for CAR-T therapies

Researchers developing pioneering cell therapies for hard-to-treat cancers have received a significant funding boost.

Cancer cells

Work led by Dr John Maher at the School of Cancer & Pharmaceutical Sciences and in Leucid Bio sees the team genetically reprogramme T cells – a type of cell in the immune system – to recognise and destroy cancer cells. This is done by inserting a gene that enables the T cell to make a new protein called a CAR. This CAR allows the T cell to dock selectively on cancer cells, causing it to become activated and then attack the tumour cells.

CAR-T cell therapy is a proven powerful therapy for blood cancers and successful treatments are available on the NHS. However, effective treatments are harder to design for solid cancers, as these tumours insulate themselves, meaning that the malignant cells are difficult to access. Tumours also establish an ecosystem that makes it very hostile to an immune response.

Dr Maher’s team, working through the King’s spin out Leucid Bio and with support by the NIHR Guy’s and St Thomas’ Biomedical Research Centre, has developed a new form of CAR-T cell therapy known as LEU-011 that could be successful for the treatment of both solid tumours and haematological malignancies. The NKG2D receptor is an activating immune receptor that triggers cell death upon recognition of human NKG2D ligands expressed on transformed, infected or damaged cells. LEU-011 exploits this natural protective mechanism and has potential for the treatment of multiple cancer types as NKG2D ligands are expressed on more than 80% of human tumours.

The £11.5m raised will help take this treatment into a first in human clinical trial.

I am really delighted that we have managed to secure this funding for Leucid which will enable us to take our lead clinical asset forward into clinical testing in patients with solid tumours. This achievement is also testament to the incredibly hard work of all those in the CAR Mechanics group and Leucid Bio.

Dr John Maher at the School of Cancer & Pharmaceutical Sciences

Artin Moussavi, Chief Executive Officer of Leucid Bio, said: “We are excited to welcome new investors to Leucid Bio. With support from this high calibre syndicate, the financing will enable us to progress our lead programme, LEU-011, into clinical development. At Leucid we are developing improved CAR-T technologies aimed to overcome key challenges in CAR-T cell therapy for solid tumours, to improve treatment outcomes and save the lives of cancer patients, where current treatments are not currently proving to be as clinically meaningful as required.”

In this story

John  Maher

Consultant and Senior Lecturer in Immunology