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T-Cell Biotech Gains €17.5M in Grant, Equity Funds

Human T-cell

Scanning electron micrograph of a healthy human T-cell (

30 Mar. 2023. A developer of engineered immune cells to treat cancer and immune deficiencies is raising €17.5 million ($US 19.1 million) in equity and grant funding from an EU agency. The new funds for Smart Immune SAS, a six year-old biotechnology enterprise in Paris, is provided by European Innovation Council, under the EU’s Horizon Europe program supporting scientific research and innovation.

Smart Immune is spun-off from labs at the Imagine Institute in Paris, a medical center for care and research into genetic diseases. The company’s technology, called ProTcell, starts with blood-forming stem cells expressing CD34+ proteins that can transform into a wide range of cell types. In this case, the company says its lab transforms stem cells into large quantities of T-cell progenitor cells in seven days, a process that can take one year inside the body. T-cells are white blood cells in the immune system for fighting diseases.

Once infused in the patient, says Smart Immune, T-cell progenitor cells are taken up by the thymus, an organ in the body’s lymphatic system producing T-cells. The company says once in the thymus, progenitor T-cells are conditioned to become full disease-fighting T-cells in about three months, a process that would normally take 15 to 18 months from bone-marrow transplants. Smart Immune says its ProTcells can be used on their own, with T-cells boosted by chimeric antigen receptors known as CAR T-cells, as well as other engineered T-cells and natural killer immune system cells.

Two clinical trials underway

Smart Immune’s lead product, code-named Smart-101, is in an early- and mid-stage clinical trial, assessing the T-cell progenitor treatments in patients with severe combined immunodeficiencies, or SCIDs, a group of rare conditions diagnosed in infants from genetic mutations that block or impair development of immune system cells. A similar trial is testing Smart-101 treatments in patients with different forms of acute leukemia. In both trials, the study teams are looking mainly for adverse effects from the treatments, but also for evidence of healthy immune cell production in participants.

The new European Innovation Council or EIC funding provides Smart Immune with a €2.5 million grant and €15 million in equity financing. The investments are made from the EIC Accelerator fund that offers grants of up to €2.5 million for start-up and small science-based enterprises for technology development, prototyping, and demonstrations, as well as intellectual property management, regulatory and standardization compliance, and marketing approvals. A separate EIC fund makes equity or convertible-loan investments in start-up and small science-based companies, to support scale-up and related growth.

Smart Immune says it’s the only French company awarded both a grant and equity investment, out of some 500 applications from throughout the EU. “This investment will support our ongoing clinical trials in Europe and the U.S.,” says Smart Immune CEO and co-founder Karine Rossignol in a company statement, “for our ProTcell therapy platform in acute leukemia and inherited immune diseases. Our goal is to change survival outcomes for patients, by fully and rapidly re-arming their immune systems.”

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