The French biotech HiFiBiO has raised €60M in a Series C round to finance the development of antibody drugs for cancer and autoimmune diseases based on its single-cell screening technology.
HiFiBiO will use the money to accelerate the progress of its drugs to clinical trials, though it has not specified when it plans to begin human trials. The funds will also fuel the expansion of HiFiBiO’s antibody production technology, which is based on screening hundreds of single immune cells at a time for the most effective antibody drug candidate.
HiFiBiO is focusing on developing antibody drugs that can modulate immune cells that suppress the immune system, such as regulatory T cells and myeloid-derived suppressor cells. Blocking the action of these cells could help the immune system fight off cancer, or enhancing these cells could help to restrain the immune system from attacking itself in autoimmune disease.
HiFiBiO is developing its antibodies by injecting animals such as mice with antigens for a target disease and letting the animal produce antibodies against the antigens. The company then separates single antibody-producing immune cells from the animal into droplets less than a millionth of the size of a drop of water. The company can then screen for the antibodies that are best at binding the antigens in a real-time, high-throughput method.
This Series C is the latest vote of confidence in HiFiBiO’s technology. Last year, HiFiBiO launched collaborations with big pharma Takeda and Gilead-owned Kite Therapeutics to develop antibody drugs for cancer and other diseases.
Antibody-drug developers are attracting major investments across Europe. For example, Belgium-based argenx raised over €250M in public investment last year to fund the development of antibodies tackling autoimmune diseases. Denmark-based Genmab raised an enormous €450M ($506M) to fund antibody drugs for cancer and autoimmune diseases when it entered the Nasdaq Stock Exchange in July this year. Time will tell whether HiFiBiO’s technology will similarly capture investors’ imaginations over the coming years.
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