Seed investors in GlycoVaxyn AG returned to provide CHF11.5 million (US$9.5 million) in a Series A financing, money that will be used in development of conjugated vaccines against bacterial infections.
Schlieren, Switzerland-based GlycoVaxyn said its technology is able to simplify the production process of conjugated vaccines, offering advantages in terms of costs and in addressing novel targets.
Urs Tuor, head of corporate development and a company co-founder, told BioWorld Today the two seed investors from a year ago gained confidence in the technology after seeing proof of concept in animal models. He said the Series A financing was a "closed round" involving only the initial investors, a move that quickened the process.
The investors were Sofinnova Partners, of Paris, and Index Ventures, which has offices in Geneva and elsewhere.
The company was founded in 2004 based on work at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Schlieren. GlycoVaxyn gained exclusive rights to the conjugation technology, and became operational in 2005. Sofinnova and Index Ventures provided about CHF1 million in seed funding in July 2006.
"The novelty in our case is we have engineered a recombinant E. coli strain that produces all the components: the sugar antigen, the protein carrier and an enzyme that attaches a sugar to the protein," Tuor said. "After fermentation, you have the ready conjugate. It only needs the downstream processing after that. That's a considerable facilitation and streamlining of the existing process.
"The current manufacturing process for conjugate vaccines is highly sophisticated," Tuor said. "You essentially need two fermentation runs to produce the sugar antigen and the protein carrier. The crucial step is the chemical conjugation of the sugar antigen to the protein carrier."
GlycoVaxyn's immunogenic glycoproteins are expected to have applicability in emerging markets, where costs can make conjugated vaccines prohibitive. For the developed world, it plans to advance products that address bacterial infections that cannot be targeted by existing vaccines or otherwise are underserved.
"We're not promoting new kinds of vaccines; we offer a simplified process," Tuor said. "The business development strategy is not to compete with cheaper vaccines, but to develop novel conjugated vaccines in areas where they have not been used in the past because of cost considerations."
The lead program, now moving into preclinical development, targets enteric diseases, such as travelers' diarrhea. Tuor is not disclosing specific lead indications, nor other areas for which the technology will be developed. He did stress, however, that the company is targeting bacterial diseases exclusively, and not viruses or other areas.
GlycoVaxyn is planning an investigational new drug application filing in late 2008, with clinical trials to follow in 2009. By then it would expect to complete another financing round to fund clinical development, Tuor said.
Michael Wacker, head of technology development, is another GlycoVaxyn co-founder. He was an inventor of the technology while at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Tuor also worked at the institute and then as a financial analyst before they formed GlycoVaxyn. The company expects to have 12 employees by the end of the month.
Along with the financing, GlycoVaxyn also appointed Michael Greco as chairman. He has been in the pharmaceutical business for 35 years, with an emphasis on vaccines. Most recently, he served until 2003 at Aventis Pasteur in positions including president, chief operating officer and deputy CEO. Among other positions, Greco was president of the European Vaccine Manufacturers group.
GlycoVaxyn also recently named three prominent academics in the vaccines area to its scientific advisory board.
Graziano Seghezzi, partner at Sofinnova, said: "Sofinnova has been actively investing in the sugar space for a long time. Capitalizing on our knowledge, we were immediately impressed by GlycoVaxyn's dominant intellectual property position in the emerging field of bacterial glycosylation. We are pleased to have the opportunity to work with Michael Wacker and the rest of the GlycoVaxyn team on this exciting opportunity."
In other financing news:
• Immune Targeting Systems Ltd., of London, closed its £3.5 million (US$7 million) Series A financing round. The company is developing synthetic vaccines for mutating viruses. Investors included the Novartis Venture Fund, Truffle Capital, HealthCap and the London Technology Fund. The London Development Agency also will be contributing £500,000 under its Grant for Research and Development program. The company's synthetic vaccine technology is designed specifically to target genetically diverse mutation-prone viruses for which cellular immunity is critical to disease protection. Potential targets include influenza A, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.
• pSivida Ltd., of Perth, Australia, closed the second tranche of its previously reported registered direct offering. The second closing related to the sale of 5.2 million units at $1.25 per unit to Pfizer Inc., of New York, per terms of their collaboration and license agreement in April. The previous tranche include 9.2 million units. Together, the stock sales totaled about $18 million. Cowen and Co. LLC was lead placement agent and JMP Securities LLC co-agent in the offering. (See BioWorld Today, April 3, 2007, and July 3, 2007.)
• WEX Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Vancouver, British Columbia, entered into an agreement with CK Life Sciences International Inc., of Hong Kong, on a C$20 million (US$19.2 million) financing. CK Life would buy about 16.3 million shares, or 27 percent of the company, at C$0.275 per share, for a total about C$4.5 million. It also would buy C$15.6 million in convertible debentures, starting with an initial C$2 million. The debt will bear interest at the rate of LIBOR plus 4 percent per year. It could be converted into common stock at a 30 percent discount to a six-month average price. Funds will be used for WEX's planned Phase III trials of the pain product Tectin, as well as certain working capital purposes.