Adaptimmune said today it won a grant of £2.1 million (almost $3.5 million) from the U.K.’s Biomedical Catalyst Fund to advance into clinical phases the development of the company’s second engineered T-cell therapy program in triple-negative breast cancer.

The award will support preclinical testing and regulatory approval for an initial pilot trial with a new T-cell receptor (TCR) targeting an undisclosed protein found to be highly expressed in some forms of breast cancer and other cancer types. The trial is planned to start in 2015.

Adaptimmune has an existing cell therapy with one TCR in multiple cancer trials in the U.S., with promising interim results from a Phase I/II trial for multiple myeloma reported in December at the annual conference of the American Society of Hematology. That clinical program targets a peptide from two cancer testis antigens, NY-ESO-1 and LAGE-1, both proteins expressed in multiple cancers. The company is running studies in the U.S. in multiple myeloma, melanoma, synovial sarcoma, and ovarian cancer.

The company’s therapy re-engineers patients’ T lymphocytes to target and kill cancer cells when re-infused into the body, by fine-tuning the ability of the T cells to recognize the small protein fragments from intracellular cancer-specific proteins presented on the cell surface. Adaptimmune says this class of cancer targets cannot be bound by antibodies or chimeric antigen receptor T cells, while natural affinity TCRs have failed to bind with the protein fragments effectively enough to cause a killing response.

“We have a wide portfolio of cancer targets to be exploited in this way and our objective is to develop this pipeline of TCRs as rapidly as possible for the benefit of patients,” James Noble, Adaptimmune’s CEO, said in a statement.

Adaptimmune is among companies that have benefitted from the £180 million ($297.2 million) Biomedical Catalyst fund, a public funding program jointly managed by the U.K.’s Technology Strategy Board and the Medical Research Council.  The fund has awarded grants totaling more than £120 million ($198.1 million) to more than 100 projects since it was launched in 2012.

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