T-cell receptor-based cell therapies are promising, curative treatments for otherwise untreatable advanced solid tumours. They consist of immune cells, known as T cells, derived from patients’ own bodies that are genetically modified to produce cancer-recognising T-cell receptors (TCRs). These modified T cells are then reintroduced into patients to destroy cancer cells.
Some patients naturally produce cancer-recognising TCRs that can be leveraged to potentially treat millions of other patients. Unfortunately, these therapeutically relevant TCRs are rare and hard to find with current wet-lab approaches. In order to overcome this, Exogene is combining AI with novel, high-throughput screening capabilities in the lab to create a fast, scalable TCR screening platform and identify rare, natural TCRs for cell therapy applications.
The funding will be used to produce in-house a core wet-lab dataset to train and validate Exogene’s AI platform, allowing the company to also advance its pilot project with Immunocore. Ultimately, the investment will bring Exogene one step closer to identifying natural TCRs from human repertoires that are good candidates for TCR-based cell therapies.
Dr Federico Paoletti, Exogene CEO & co-founder, commented, “Our AI platform allows us to screen billions of TCRs in a matter of seconds, overcoming the scalability problem of existing wet-lab technologies. We are delighted with the result of this fundraising round which allows us to strengthen our high-throughput wet-lab TCR screening capabilities, and we are grateful to all our investors for their continued interest and support. This investment brings us one step closer to our goal of identifying new safe and effective cell therapies that will radically improve patient lives.”
The funding round was led by Selvedge Venture, with participation from additional investors including R42 Group, Jude Gomila, Nadav Rosenberg, Stefano Bernardi, KQ Labs, Entrepreneur First, Sigmas Group and other angel investors.
Alasdair Thong, Founding Partner at Selvedge Venture, commented, “Exogene’s unique combination of AI technology and in-house TCR screening capabilities in the lab sets it apart from both traditional, wet-lab based TCR biotechs and startups leveraging AI. Selvedge Venture is excited to support Exogene during this next stage of growth towards discovering novel cell therapies for cancer.”
Dr Andrea Mambrini, Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Exogene commented, “Validating our high-throughput TCR screening capabilities in the lab will be a major milestone for the company. By producing massive TCR-target interaction datasets in-house, we can continuously improve our AI without relying on limited public or third party data sources. The platform nature of our technology will allow us to expand beyond cancer treatment and move into even larger markets, such as immune system rejuvenation.”
Exogene plans to partner with pharma and biotech companies to discover TCRs for therapeutic applications from scratch, as well as to develop its own TCR-based cell therapies that could be out-licensed. The company’s long term plan is to develop TCR-based cell therapies to rejuvenate the immune system, by targeting and eliminating senescent T cells that accumulate as we age.