Scotland’s TC Biopharm (TCB) has secured a major investment from Japan with a deal centered on developing a novel gamma-delta CAR-T therapy to treat cancer, as well as a grant from Scottish Enterprise worth £2.7 million to fund preclinical activities.

The group has signed a strategic collaboration with Osaka, Japan-based The NIPRO Corp to co-develop a novel immunotherapy product using TCB’s safe CAR-T platform, ImmuniCAR, which utilises unique properties of modified gamma-delta T cells to selectively target cancer whilst leaving healthy cells untouched.

TCB and NIPRO will co-develop an autologous gamma-delta CAR-T therapy directed against CD19, which is expressed in several blood cancers such as multiple myeloma and lymphoma.

NIPRO will provide non-dilutive funds in the form of up-front fees, milestone payments and research support to progress elements of TCB’s CAR-T programme to clinical studies, with Phase I trials expected sometime this year.

In return, NIPRO gains exclusive worldwide rights to sell and distribute any CAR-T products resulting from the collaboration.

Preclinical studies developing the product will also be supported by a Scottish Enterprise ‘seek-and-solve’ grant, which will provide £2.7 million of additional non-dilutive funding.

“This particular grant is designed to encourage investment in R&D and inspire Scottish companies to partner with international players to expand market reach; it’s fantastic to see a pre-revenue company like TCB collaborating with NIPRO,” said Jim Watson, director of Innovation & Enterprise Services at Scottish Enterprise.

“The seek-and-solve project will allow TCB to accelerate a route to market, meaning potentially quicker returns for the Scottish economy, helping establish TCB as a global leader in cancer-specific cell therapies.”

“The collaboration with TC Biopharm, which has stand-alone technology in developing CAR-T products, and NIPRO, an experienced company in manufacturing cell culture products, will establish the safe and innovative cancer therapeutics for practical use in the global market”, noted NIPRO’s managing director, Toshiaki Masuda.