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Germany’s ITM raises $205M as radiopharma field booms

Dive Brief:

  • Radiopharmaceutical drug developer ITM has raised 188 million euros, or about $205 million, to fund its development of the targeted radiation therapies for cancer.
  • Announced by ITM Thursday, the financing is the latest evidence of the substantial investment flowing into the field of radiopharmaceuticals, which are designed to deliver a cancer-killing radioisotope directly into tumors while sparing nearby healthy tissue.
  • ITM, short for Isotope Technologies Munich, has advanced a radiopharmaceutical drug for a type of gastrointestinal cancer into two Phase 3 studies that are estimated to complete this year and in 2027. Uniquely, ITM is also a supplier of radioisotopes, including the commonly used lutetium-177.

Dive Insight:

Thursday’s funding comes almost exactly one year after ITM raised 255 million euros from the same group of investors, a syndicate that includes Temasek, BlackRock and the Qatar Investment Authority.

In the 12 months since that June 2023 funding, four of ITM’s radiopharma peers have been acquired in deals worth a combined $8.5 billion. Several others have struck research collaborations with large drugmakers like Eli Lilly and Roche. And hundreds of millions of dollars in investment have flown into new startups.

Steffen Schuster, the longtime CEO of ITM, hasn’t been surprised by the frenzy of activity. He’s expected as much since Novartis acquired the radiopharma company Endocyte five years ago, gaining a prostate cancer treatment it now sells as Pluvicto.

“We said as soon as Pluvicto is a blockbuster, big pharma will wake up and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, I missed the train,’” Schuster said in an interview.

Pluvicto sales last year totaled $980 million and Novartis expects they’ll eventually reach triple that sum each year. The success of Pluvicto and another radiopharma Novartis sells called Lutathera have helped convince other large companies that the drug class is an essential building block for their oncology pipelines. Bristol Myers spent $4.1 billion to buy RayzeBio; AstraZeneca paid $2 billion for Fusion Pharmaceuticals; and Eli Lilly bought Point Biopharma for $1.4 billion.

“The whole market has changed completely,” Schuster said.

The executive declined to comment on whether ITM has had discussions with larger firms, but said that its position supplying isotopes and developing drugs both gives it control and builds value.

The bulk of the new funding will go toward ITM’s pipeline, which is led by its gastrointestinal cancer drug ITM-11. Other treatments are in much earlier phases of testing, but involve a range of tumor types as well as radioisotopes.

ITM-11 is aimed at the same target as Novartis’ Lutathera and uses the same isotope: lutetium-177. Schuster noted differences in its dosing intervals as well as in some of the treatment’s components, however.

“[The goal] is not just taking market share from Novartis,” said Schuster. “It’s creating a larger market. There are so many patients who could get this treatment who don’t get treatment.”

In addition to development, ITM currently manufactures and supplies lutetium-177 as well as an imaging radioisotope known as gallium-68. In January, the company said a new production site in Germany was ready for business and, several months prior, launched a joint venture with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories to produce actinium-225, another radioisotope that drugmakers are using.

“There are so many synergies between these two parts of the businesses,” said Schuster.

Along with Temasek, BlackRock and Qatar Investment Authority, investors Athos and Carbyne were involved in ITM’s fundraising. Nextech, which participated in the June 2023 funding, was not among the named investors in Thursday’s announcement.