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Gates Foundation invest in Immunocore, warning of infectious disease threat

Published on 20/09/17 at 09:52am

It has been announced that the Bill & Melina Gates Foundation will invest up to $40 million in UK-based Immunocore to support the development of therapeutics for infectious diseases.

The money invested comes amid heightened coverage, some of which emerging from the foundation itself, of the threat posed by infectious diseases to global health.

The money has been granted to Immunocore to develop its ImmTAV (Immune mobilising monoclonal TCRs Against Virus) and ImmTAB (Immune mobilising monoclonal TCRs Against Bacteria) therapeutics. The research will look to develop molecules to aid in the treatment of tuberculosis and HIV.

In an op-ed piece for Business Insider, Gates warned: “Whether it occurs by a quirk of nature or at the hand of a terrorist, epidemiologists say a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than 30 million people in less than a year. And they say there is a reasonable probability the world will experience such an outbreak in the next 10-15 years.”

The move by the philanthropic foundation can then be seen as part of its wider goal to help the world counter such a threat. Without the funding, it is unlikely that Immunocore would be able to extend its reach into the areas of TB and HIV, as it primarily focuses on the treatment of cancer, an area which is considerably more commercially attractive.

The work Immunocore carries out is focused on T cell receptors; the company’s produces synthetic, soluble T cells receptors as a treatment of themselves to recognise cells containing disease-specific targets. This approach has already gained the biotech backers such as Genentech, GSK, AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly.

Eliot Forster, Chief Executive Officer at Immunocore, commented: “Many infectious diseases continue to represent a huge and growing global challenge. We’re delighted and honoured that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the most significant forces for positive change in global healthcare, has recognised the potential of Immunocore’s platform technology for advancing novel therapeutics for infectious diseases such as TB and HIV.”

Beyond the money provided by the foundation, it is expected that the biotech will be announcing a Series B funding shortly, with the Series A funding round it completed previously raising approximately $320 million.

Ben Hargreaves

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