Quell Therapeutics Ltd (“Quell”), a biotechnology company developing engineered T regulatory (Treg) cell therapies, recently announced the closing of an extended Series A.
The financing round was led by their existing investors Syncona Ltd (“Syncona”), who have committed an additional $34.7 million (£25 million) and UCL Technology Fund (“UCLTF”) who have committed an additional $1 million (£720K); bringing the total Series A financing to circa $84 million (£60.4 million).
Liver transplantation with Treg cell therapy
Quell is funded to progress its program in liver transplantation to clinical proof of concept, whilst expanding its portfolio into autoimmune and neuroinflammatory diseases. Additionally, the funding will allow the company to develop scalable manufacturing processes further and expand its senior leadership team.
Quell Therapeutics was established with the aim of developing engineered T regulatory cell therapies. Tregs are a subset of T cells that provide a regulatory function that harnesses their strong immune-suppressive capacity. Further, they can be used to advance therapies for the management and treatment of a range of conditions such as solid organ transplant rejection, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.
First program expected to enter clinic in first half of 2022
Quell is harnessing the suppressive capacity of Tregs to develop genetically enhanced Treg cell therapies that address several conditions of immune dysfunction. The company’s lead programme, QEL-001, targeting tolerance induction post liver transplantation, is expected to enter the clinic in the first half of 2022. The goal of the QEL-001 therapy is to enable patients to live with their transplanted liver without taking immunosuppressive medication; finally making transplantation the full cure it was always intended to be.
The company also has other research programs in development, including therapies for the treatment of autoimmune and neuroinflammatory diseases, focused initially on developing candidates for Type 1 Diabetes and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (“ALS”), also called Motor Neuron Disease (“MND”).
“We have made tremendous progress with our lead program in liver transplantation over the past twelve months. We have selected our first clinical candidate, QEL-001, and are progressing well through process development. In parallel we have leveraged our cell Modular Engineered Treg platform to build out a valuable pipeline in autoimmune and neuroinflammatory diseases,” said Iain McGill, chief executive officer of Quell Therapeutics. “We are leading the scientific field in bringing these potentially transformative therapies to patients, with our lead program expected to be the first multiply engineered Treg therapy to enter the clinic.”
Martin Murphy, CEO of Syncona Investment Management Limited, added: “Quell has made strong progress since its foundation in 2019 moving from concept to clinical candidate nomination in less than 18 months. The business was founded around the work of world-leading academics and has progressed an exciting first-in-class programme targeting tolerance induction post liver transplantation leveraging the expertise in the company.”
Professor Alberto Sanchez-Fueyo, Professor of Hepatology in the Department of Inflammation Biology at Kings College London, said: “Quell is focused on delivering its first programme targeting tolerance induction post liver transplantation into the clinic. This is particularly exciting for me as my passion is to try to understand how the immune responses within the liver are regulated and how we can safely manage liver transplant patients without the problems associated with lifelong immunosuppression. I think there is a fantastic opportunity with our first product to provide a transformational impact for patients and this funding is critical as we continue to make progress towards that goal.”
“Tregs are vital for the induction and maintenance of peripheral tolerance and are key in preventing excessive immune responses and autoimmunity.” said Professor Elmar Jaeckel, Group Leader of “Immune tolerance” in the Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrinology at Hannover Medical School, and co-founder of Quell.
“Quell is working in close collaboration with its academic partners to ensure we are selecting the best possible targets and therapies in order to build a pipeline that has the potential to fundamentally resolve the treatment of chronic diseases.”
Quell was founded by Syncona in March 2019, in partnership with six prominent experts from King’s College London (KCL), University College London (UCL) and Hannover Medical School, in the exciting field of Tregs. Tregs are a subset of T cells capable of down regulating the immune system. Working alongside its existing collaboration with world leading institutions; Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) at the University of Sheffield, the Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrinology at Hannover Medical School (MHH), KCL (Kings College London) and GSTT (Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust), the company aims to address a range of conditions including solid organ transplant rejection, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.