OraVax Inc., a privately held company focusing on oral vaccines forinfectious diseases, has raised $13 million in a third round offinancing.
Keith Ehrlich, OraVax's chief financial officer, said the funds will beused to continue development of OraVax's lead products targetinghelicobacter pylori, which is linked to peptic ulcers and gastriccancer, and respiratory syncytial virus, which causes viralpneumonia in infants.
Lance Gordon, president and CEO of the Cambridge, Mass.-basedcompany, said OraVax's products are designed to stimulate themucosal immune system by mobilizing antibody and cell-mediatedimmunity. The mucosal immune system, differentiated from theblood-borne immune system, is considered the body's first line ofdefense against infection.
In developing the drug for helicobacter pylori, Gordon said, thecompany is targeting an enzyme that allows the bacteria to survive.The treatment involves oral delivery of a nontoxic form of theenzyme, which is designed to stimulate an immune reactiondestroying the existing disease and protecting against futureinfections. OraVax expects to begin clinical trials of the vaccine thisyear.
OraVax's treatment for respiratory syncytial virus involves makingmonoclonal immunoglobulin A antibodies that are designed toneutralize the virus. The drug, delivered in a nasal spray, is beingtested for its prophylactic activity.
Ehrlich said OraVax has raised a total of $28.3 million since its wasfounded in 1990. In the latest round of financing, the lead investorwas Techno Venture Management of Boston, which contributedabout $2 million.
Ehrlich added that the $13 million raised was $3 million more thanthe company anticipated. _ Charles Craig
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