LONDON ¿ Microscience Ltd., of London, focused on vaccine discovery and development, has raised #9 million (US$14 million) in a second private funding round. Of this, #8 million has come from Apax and #1 million from Merlin Ventures. In addition, the recently announced Merlin Healthcare Fund, which is in the process of being raised, will have the option to invest up to #3 million over the next year. The co-investors also have been granted options to invest further funds thereafter.

Merlin provided the initial investment of #2.5 million when the company was founded two years ago.

The money will fund clinical development of Microscience¿s two lead products, an oral typhoid vaccine and group B streptococcus vaccine. Phase I studies on the oral typhoid vaccine will commence this autumn. This will also be developed as an oral delivery system capable of delivering a wide range of vaccine antigens. Rod Richards, CEO of Microscience, told BioWorld International the first #2.5 million ¿lasted two years. We are moving into the clinic now, which is obviously more expensive, and we expect this funding to last for a further two years.¿

By this time, Microscience expects to have up to three programs in clinical development. Richards said the business plan is to take products to the end of Phase II trials before partnering, and he does not expect to reach that stage with this round of funding. However, the company will partner earlier in other areas, including animal health.

Microscience has three platform technologies: Signature Tagged Mutagenesis, a technique for the rapid identification of the genes that make bacteria pathogenic, thus providing novel targets for the development of vaccines and antibacterials; protein vaccinology, a rapid method of identifying bacterial proteins which are suitable for use in vaccines; and an attenuated vaccines program, which is using mutations discovered by Signature Tagged Mutagenesis to develop a mucosal vaccine system in Salmonella, providing a vehicle for the oral delivery of a number of antigens.