TC BIOPHARM, the Scottish immunotherapy company, has secured more than £6.25 million of investment to fund the latest stage of its pioneering cancer treatment.

In a major vote of confidence for the Scottish life sciences sector, TCB has attracted funding from Japan’s Nipro Corporation and the Scottish Investment Bank (SIB) to bankroll phase three of trials of its lead ImmuniCell product. Funding has also been secured from family sources.

TCB co-founder and chief executive Dr Michael Leek declared attracting Series A funding is a “really a big deal” for the company. He highlighted the scale of the deal and the importance of the backing from the Nipro Corporation, which led the investment round. Until now the funding secured by the firm to date in the Series C category, with investments made typically in the £1m to £2m range.

“It represents a little bit of a coming of age for the company,” said Dr Leek. “We’ll be three years old in February, so we have gone from just myself and two other founders to 45 people in less than three years.

“This money, this £6.25m worth of Series A funding will allow us to move from phase two into phase three, and also to start international trials in the US and Europe.”

Highlighting his view that the “strategic partnership” with Nipro will go from “strength to strength”, Dr Leek added: “Their goals are developing innovative regenerative medicine products, and improving patient quality of life. Their goals are exactly aligned with ours and have made it clear they want to be a major player in regenerative medicine. That’s why they have invested.”

The latest funding tranche takes to nearly £9m the amount raised by TCB in the last 12 months. And it comes as the firm, which is 50 per cent-owned by Medinet, the Tokyo-listed immuno-cell therapy company, reports encouraging progress on phase two of its trial.

TCB’s pioneering treatment, which will be used to treat patients with skin, lung and kidney cancer, involves using patients’ own cells to attack the disease. It centres on the cultivation in mass numbers of a type of white blood cell which naturally battles cancer, but struggles to fight the disease when it takes hold.

These gamma-delta T cells are removed from the patient and grown in huge numbers in TCB’s clean-room environment at Maxim Park in Lanarkshire. The cultivated cells are then injected into the patient intravenously by doctors at their clinics, with patients typically receiving six doses over a three-month period.

Phase one and two of the trials, which have been taking place in Glasgow, Edinburgh and in England under Professor Jeff Evans of the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, have focused largely on demonstrating the safety of the drug, by proving there is no “drug-related adverse toxicity”.

Dr Leek said TCB has just completed the phase 1/2a trial, where it looked at safety and monitored patients as they received an escalating amount of cells. The next stage, phases 2b and three, will focus on the efficacy of the product to “build up a statistically valid picture of the product’s ability to target cancer”. Dr Leek said TCB will under phase two be targeting three disease types – melanoma, small scale lung cancer and kidney cancer – with phase three then being directed at the disease type which shows the most promising signs of being defeated by the therapy.

Dr Leek said the “progress so far has been very encouraging”, adding that TCB hopes to provide an update on the effectiveness of the drug towards the end of the year.

It expects trials in Europe to begin in the second half the year. He hopes trials in the US, most likely in New York and Boston, will take place in the fourth quarter of the year.

Kerry Sharp, head of SIB, said: “This fundraising represents an exciting step in the evolution of TC BioPharm. We have continued to invest in the company’s future and are delighted to welcome the Nipro Corporation as a new investor into the company and Scotland. Their involvement in this deal is a positive endorsement of our vibrant life sciences sector and a great example of the opportunities Scotland’s market leading technology companies, such as TC BioPharm, can offer overseas investors.”