The immuno-oncology company Elicera Therapeutics achieved significant accomplishment in 2021, e.g., a listing on Nasdaq First North Growth Market and raising of 62 MSEK before issue costs, making Elicera well equipped to take yet another step in its development of cancer immunotherapies. BioStock reached out to Elicera’s CEO Jamal El-Mosleh to get his thoughts on the company’s achievements during 2021 and his expectations for 2022.
Elicera Therapeutics develops next generation cell and gene therapies based on enhanced CAR T-cells and oncolytic viruses. Elicera’s product portfolio consists of four drug candidates – two in the field of oncolytic viruses (ELC-100 and ELC-201), and two CAR T-cell based candidates (ELC-301 and ELC-401).
The company has also developed a platform technology called iTANK to improve the function of CAR T-cells and enhance the immune response of cancer treatments. The technology activates the patients’ own killer T-cells, leading to a parallel and broad attack on the cancer cells. Elicera uses iTANK to strengthen the company’s own drug candidates, but it can also be applied to other CAR T-cells under development, making it an excellent business opportunity.
Presentations of proof-of-concept data
The iTANK platform was presented for the first time to various stakeholders at the European Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ESGCT) Virtual Congress 2021 in October 2021, the largest European congress in the field. Preclinical proof-of-concept data was presented supporting that iTANK can enhance the efficacy of CAR T-cells and counteract the problem of antigen heterogeneity in solid tumors, i.e., that not all tumor cells will express the targeted antigen and the antigen levels may be quite variable.
Elicera has also had the opportunity to present the preclinical data at the 13th Annual Protein & Antibody Engineering Summit (PEGS) Europe Summit in November.
IPO and new share issue attracted great deal of interest
Another significant milestone for the company during 2021 was the listing of shares on Nasdaq First North Growth Market on 11 June – an event indicating that Elicera was ready for increased exposure to international and institutional investors. In conjunction with the listing, Elicera conducted an issue of units which was subscribed for approximately 171 per cent, generating proceeds of 62 MSEK before issue costs. According to the company, this is sufficient to finance operations through at least mid-2023.
»The IPO and connected financing were successfully completed, making it possible for us to finance our business until second half of 2023. It has given us important exposure to the industry, both with regards to commercial and academic players and we are well positioned to start looking for potential partners for our diverse set of drug candidates as well as our fully developed technology platform, iTANK.« — Jamal El-Mosleh, CEO Elicera Therapeutics
Regulatory and patent advancements for oncolytic viruses
Regarding Elicera’s most advanced candidate, ELC-100, which is currently evaluated in a clinical phase I/II-study for the treatment of neuroendocrine tumors, in June 2021, the company also received ATMP-classification (Advanced Therapy Medicinal Product) from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The classification gives Elicera a clear regulatory path for ELC-100 to market.
Additionally, at the beginning of this year, Elicera acquired a patent for the modified adenovirus used in ELC-100 from Immunicum. The patent acquisition gives Elicera full control over the IP-protection for ELC-100, as well as an opportunity to create new oncolytic viruses based on the same virus vector.
Meanwhile, last year, Elicera also submitted a patent application to protect its second oncolytic virus-based candidate, ELC-201, which is genetically modified to achieve three combined mechanisms of action for the treatment of cancer.
Additional manufacturing agreements in 2021
In 2021, Elicera also entered into important agreements for the company’s development of immuno-oncological treatments. In November, Elicera signed an agreement with German BioNTech for contract manufacturing of viral vectors for the CAR T-cell therapy ELC-401. The retroviral vectors will be used in a phase I/II clinical study with ELC-401 for the treatment of glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, which is expected to be initiated in the second half of 2023.
Just over a month after the agreement with BioNTech was communicated, Elicera announced an agreement with Texas-based Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) for contract manufacturing of oncolytic viruses to be used in the upcoming clinical phase I/II-study with ELC-201. This is the second collaboration with BCM, as they have already supplied Elicera with oncolytic viruses for the ongoing clinical phase I/II-study with ELC-100 in neuroendocrine tumors. This means that they are well-trusted by the company and well suited for the additional manufacturing task.
2022 has been kicked off in strong fashion by Elicera with not only the patent transfer from Immunicum, but also the announcement of a 5 MSEK grant awarded by Vinnova to develop an automated CAR T-cell manufacturing process. The project involves a collaborative effort with Vecura at Karolinska Sjukhuset and Akademiska Sjukhuset in Uppsala to prepare for a phase I/II study using Elicera’s iTANK-armed CAR T-cell therapy ELC-301 for treatment of B-cell malignancies.
This manufacturing process funded by Vinnova will be implemented as Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and is expected to simplify the current labour-intensive process as well as de-centralise the manufacturing sites, thus making CAR T-cell therapies more accessible to cancer patients.
Interview with CEO
BioStock got in touch with Elicera’s CEO Jamal El-Mosleh to get his thoughts on the past year and the company’s plans for 2022.
When taking a look back at 2021, how would you sum up Elicera’s achievements?
– I’m proud to say we have managed to achieve everything we set out to achieve during 2021 with significant progress both in business development and in developing all our drug candidates.
Elicera’s IPO was a significant event during 2021. How will it help Elicera grow its business?
– The IPO and connected financing were successfully completed, making it possible for us to finance our business until second half of 2023. It has given us important exposure to the industry, both with regards to commercial and academic players and we are well positioned to start looking for potential partners for our diverse set of drug candidates as well as our fully developed technology platform, iTANK.
How important is the transfer of patent rights for modified adenovirus to use with ELC-100 from Immunicum?
– A strong patent portfolio for our clinical development program is of highest strategic importance, and the acquirement of the patent for the viral vector used in ELC-100, our most advanced project, gives us full control over the candidate’s IP protection. It will also facilitate negotiations with potential partners for ELC-100.
What milestones do you look forward to achieving in 2022?
– We recently announced that Vinnova has granted us 5 million SEK in funding to develop a fully automated production process for our CAR T-cells. Initiation of our first CAR T-cell study in B-cell malignancies will be a major milestone for the company, but there are several other important potential milestones we are working towards this year, some of which I am not able to comment on further at the moment. In the near-term future, we have communicated an expectation to publish proof-of-concept data for our iTANK-platform, which we believe will send an important signal to potential partners and facilitate both ongoing and future partnering discussions. Our ambition is to have secured at least one partnership for iTANK during 2022.The content of BioStock’s news and analyses is independent but the work of BioStock is to a certain degree financed by life science companies. The above article concerns a company from which BioStock has received financing.