NeoPhore has raised £9.6m ($12.2m) in a Series B financing extension, bringing the round’s total to £31.1m.

Sixth Element Capital, which is currently managing the CRT Pioneer Fund (CPF), led the round, with participation from existing backers and three new investors, as per a 1 February press release.

The UK-based company, which spun out of the University of Turin and the UK-based PhoreMost, extended the round with a £6m extension in January 2023. The CPF is a joint initiative between Cancer Research Technology (CRT) and the European Investment Fund (EIF).

NeoPhore is developing a pipeline of drugs targeting proteins along the DNA mismatch repair (MMR) pathway. MMR deficiency is where errors in DNA base pairing are not corrected. Cells that do not have these routine corrections can have many mutations, which could lead to cancer. NeoPhore says that this tumour suppressor pathway is lost in up to 40% of sporadic cancers.

The company announced its lead compound, NP1867, which targets the MMR protein PMS2, at AACR-NCI-EORTC, held in Boston, US, from 7 to 10 October 2023. NeoPhore said the funding would help advance its lead oral programme.

The UK-based biotech is homing in on raising tumour mutational burdens. Deficient MMR can result in a high-frequency microsatellite instability MSI (MSI-H) phenotype. Higher MSI status is linked with the creation of neoantigens – substrates that help mediate immune activation. Neoantigens are already being explored in cancer vaccines, such as BioNTech’s highly anticipated RNA vaccine for pancreatic cancer.

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NeoPhore is developing small molecule MMR inhibitors that induce neoantigen expression intending to increase immunogenicity in solid tumours. This would make cancer patients more responsive to immunotherapy. NeoPhore says that the combination of immune checkpoint inhibitors such as PD-1 inhibitors, together with an increased neoantigen repertoire could elicit more efficacious tumour treatment.

MSD’s blockbuster Keytruda is the best-selling PD-1 inhibitor, and one of the top-selling drugs worldwide – generating $20.9bn in sales in 2022. The drug is approved for patients with unresectable or metastatic MSI-H or MMR-deficient solid tumours, amongst others.

NeoPhore’s CEO Dr Matthew Baker said: “With the support of our committed and new investors, along with our research collaborations with academic institutions that are in place, we remain on track to deliver a candidate drug for our lead PMS2 program by early 2025.”