LIFTT, IAG partners, Indaco, Meta Ventures and Recomec invest in CellPly
The objective of the investment is to bring to market the biotech company’s exclusive proprietary technology that enables in-depth analysis of the effectiveness of cell therapies in oncology.
Bologna and Turin, December 14 – CellPly, a company specializing in pioneering life-science analytical tools, closes a total round of 2 million euros to bring to market a solution for cell analysis supporting the development of cell therapies in oncology. The new investors include LIFTT with a contribution of €800,000 and Recomec. The partners of Italian Angels for Growth, with €700,000, Indaco and Meta Ventures are also re-investing in the company.
The goal of the investment is to complete the development and bring to the market an innovative analytical platform to deeply characterize immune cells engineered during development and production of cell therapies and determine functional properties that cannot be measured with state-of-the-art technologies. Cell therapies have the enormous potential to not only treat, but to cure cancer patients. However, their development is complex as the cells withdrawn and re-injected into patients after genetic modification are not always effective and present heterogeneity among different cells within the same cell therapy lot, posing concerns to regulatory agencies and resulting in the need to advance potency tests carried out in quality control before product release. Even more, their adoption is slowed down by the high cost (up to more than €400,000 per patient) due to the lengthy research and development and the significant manpower needed for production and quality control.
Cellply proposes itself as a game-changer in overcoming these challenges thanks to its ability to generate a comprehensive characterization of single immune cells within a cell therapy lot, offering a tool to accelerate research and development and generate a release test within quality control that is highly representative of the real efficacy of the product.
The primary feature of Cellply technology is the ability to identify subpopulations of cells which appear phenotypically similar but present strong differences from a functional point of view. The platform precisely quantifies the number of active cells, i.e. “killer” or “super killer” immune cells that are able to attack and eliminate cancer cells. The second feature is the ability to combine the functional data with data obtained by multiple single-cell assays to characterize cytokine release and immunophenotype on each individual cell.
Cell therapies represent an exponentially growing market that now features more than 1,300 active clinical trials with a 40% growth YoY. Target customers are biopharmaceutical companies and clinics that are developing new cell therapies for cancer treatment. Cellply unique technology is protected by a strong IP portfolio of 7 patent families and over 50 patents filed in various countries.
The project relies on a multidisciplinary founding team with successful entrepreneurial experience, composed of CEO Massimo Bocchi PhD and Roberto Guerrieri PhD, who had successful exits which included a trade sale of Silicon Biosystems to Menarini, and was inventor of the fingerprint technology acquired by Apple. CellPly is located in the most advanced area of development in oncology: immunotherapy, which is destined to profoundly change cancer therapy and treatment in the coming years.
The solution proposed by CellPly offsets the risk of research investments by pharmaceutical companies, as well as increasing the likelihood of therapeutics success for the health of patients: “We want to offer to biotech and pharma companies and clinics developing new cell therapies a tool that can reduce development time, costs and risks – explains CEO Massimo Bocchi. Our team has developed a unique combination of robotics, microfluidics and artificial intelligence technologies to enable a massive screening of the interactions between immune and tumor cells with single-cell resolution while ensuring an unprecedented ease of use. Our ambition is to make such a complex characterization available not just in the R&D but also in quality control during manufacturing and in the clinical settings, raising the bar in terms of depth of information that can be evaluated in these contexts. The goal is to create a “Cell Pass”, a tool that allows monitoring the potency of the product during the development and production and after administration to patients. Monitoring the immune system function has a huge relevance in the cell therapy and beyond, with a potential impact on the development of immuno-oncology therapeutics.”
Great satisfaction from Guido Panizza, Head of Project Management at LIFTT: “The solution that we want to bring to market with CellPly has the opportunity to unlock the positive potential that cell therapies can offer in the fight against cancer. These therapies have shown the ability to cure cancer, but we need to make these treatments sustainable and therefore accessible to all patients who need such treatments. To date, there are several cell therapies under development, but they involve long lead times, low reproducibility, and a large number of specialized technicians for production and quality control. This also translates into a high risk of failure that is not acceptable either for the patient, because very often we are talking about patients in serious conditions with no margin to try another therapy, or for the pharmaceutical companies that produce the therapy.”
Giovanni Tesoriere, CEO of LIFTT, who has specific expertise on the subject by virtue of his past with Stefano Buono in the development of an oncology drug in AAA, later sold to Novartis, comments: “In line with its vision LIFTT invests in projects that result in important positive externalities, and never before as in this case we have seen how the solid business prospects of CellPly are interconnected with a clear collective benefit. LIFTT’s intervention is important because the CellPly project is important, as it can open up a decisive perspective in the fight against cancer: a platform that in a few hours is able to give precise information on the characteristics and degree of effectiveness of immunotherapies is a great help not only for biotech and pharmaceutical companies but also for the healthcare system, doctors and patients.”
Antonio Leone, Past Chairman IAG and Champion in this investment: “The members of Italian Angels for Growth were among the first to believe in CellPly in 2014, as it was a project of great importance in the oncology area. CellPly has demonstrated over the years to have a team with high-level skills and commitment. It is a project that honours Italian scientific research and entrepreneurship. This capital increase confirms our confidence in CellPly’s growth path and in the development of a business which has the opportunity to introduce a radical change in cancer treatment”.
Davide Turco, CEO of Indaco “We have believed from the beginning in the potential of Cellply technology, investing with the Atlante Seed fund, and have followed step by step the team which, thanks to its extraordinary skills and commitment, has succeeded over time in developing a technological response to the growing market demand in the field of quality control for cell therapies. The entry of new qualified investors such as LIFTT and Recomec now represents an important accelerator in the development of the Cellply platform“.
Cellply is a biotechnology company that develops analytical instrumentation using a proprietary single-cell Co-Culture Array (CCATM) technology for the in-depth characterization of the functionality of individual immune and tumor cells. Initial applications involve measuring the potency of both autologous and allogeneic cell therapies (e.g. CAR-T, CAR-NK) and of antibody-based immunotherapies with a level of detail not achievable with existing technologies. The technology allows to measure in-vitro cytotoxicity and serial killing of tumor targets by single immune cells correlated with a measure of the phenotype and cytokine secretion by each cell. A fully automated “all-in-one” analysis tool integrating sample preparation, cell culture and analysis, is offered to biopharma companies, CDMO’s and research institutes to accelerate immunotherapy and cell therapy R&D and monitor the potency of the product in quality control during manufacturing.
LIFTT is a “not only profit” company that aims to offer an innovative, dynamic and modern vision of Venture Capital applied to Transfer Technology with a strong focus on the impact on the Italian territory. Founded by the Polytechnic of Turin and the Compagnia San Paolo Foundation (the largest banking foundation in Italy) and chaired by entrepreneur-scientist Stefano Buono, LIFTT promotes an ethical business model inspired by ESG and boasts to date 115 private and institutional investors, including Fondazione LINKS, Compagnia di San Paolo and CRT, in the process of capitalizing at least €90M by 2024. The company has raised €28M to date and has completed 18 investments in innovative start-ups and SMEs, from a pipeline of over 1000 companies, operating in all market sectors.
About Italian Angels for Growth
IAG, founded in 2007, is a leader in the Italian seed venture capital: more than 270 protagonists of the entrepreneurial, financial and industrial world that invest time, skills and capital for the growth of innovative startups. Italian Angels for Growth, in more than ten years of activity, has analyzed over 6,500 startups and its members have made over 100 investments, for a total of over 300 million euros invested by IAG members and co-investors. The IAG business angels support innovative projects financially by investing their own capital, but at the same time, thanks to the mix of skills of the members, support the founders of the startups in the definition of the business model in all its aspects.