Corixa Corp., a Seattle-based biotechnology startup company, raised$15 million in its first round of financing to support its developmentof vaccines based on antigens that trigger specific responses in Thelper cells.
Lead investor in the financing is Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byersof Menlo Park, Calif.
Corixa's chief operating officer, Mark McDade, said Monday thecompany, founded in September 1994, represents the combination oftwo smaller vaccine companies, Actigen Inc., of San Diego, andIasys Inc., of Seattle. McDade said Kleiner Perkins engineered themerger. Actigen, formed in 1993, focused on tumor vaccines whileIasys, also founded in 1993, concentrated on infectious diseasevaccines. Corixa will pursue vaccine candidates for both canceroustumors and infectious diseases.
Other Corixa investors include Enterprise Partners, of NewportBeach, Calif., Interwest Partners, of Menlo Park, Olympic VenturePartners, of Kirkland, Wash., and Forward Ventures, of San Diego.
McDade said Corixa intends to position itself as a research anddevelopment company while seeking corporate partners to help bringits products to market.
Corixa has one vaccine candidate in Phase I clinical trials under anagreement with the University of Pittsburgh. The product is a tumorantigen, called Muc-1, which is designed to stimulate reactive T cellsagainst cancer cells in breast, pancreatic and colorectal cancerpatients.
McDade said Corixa's T cell vaccines use antigens expressed bycancer cells and other pathogens to trigger T helper 1 and killer Tcells as opposed to activating T helper 2 cells, which can initiateharmful immune responses.
In addition to the clinical trial under way, McDade said Corixaexpects to begin a clinical study of Her2/Neu peptides for treatmentof breast cancer this year.
The company's other vaccine programs under development focus ontuberculosis and leishmaniasis, which is caused by a parasite.
McDade said Corixa also is developing antigen delivery systems forin vivo and ex vivo therapies with its products as well as diagnosticsbased on the antigens associated with specific cancers and infections.
McDade joined Corixa from Boehringer Mannheim Therapeutics,which is a division of London-based Corange Ltd.
Steven Gillis, formerly head of research and development atImmunex Corp., of Seattle, is Corixa's president and CEO. n
-- Charles Craig
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