THE Irish-led cancer therapy firm Imvax has raised $112m (€98m) to advance a potential vaccine for solid tumour cancers, the key product in its clinical-stage pipeline.
Imvax said the Series C funding round, on top of an earlier $40m round, would allow the Philadelphia-based firm to progress its Phase 2 clinical trials for IGV-001, its immunotherapy drug for patients suffering from a rapidly spreading form of brain cancer called glioblastoma.
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons calls glioblastoma "a devastating brain cancer that typically results in death in the first 15 months after diagnosis". Gliomas - tumours found in the brain and spinal cord - have proved particularly resistant to traditional cancer therapies.
"The tremendous response to this round of fundraising reflects the promising results from our Phase 1b trial, which validate the potential of IGV-001 to be a life-changing therapy for patients with malignant gliomas," said Imvax CEO John Furey.
Mr Furey is an Irishman who, after graduating from Trinity College Dublin, spent a decade working for Pfizer where he eventually led its vaccine business unit in Beijing. He took the helm at Imvax last year after holding senior positions at Baxter International, Baxalta and Spark Therapeutics, prior to the latter's $4.8bn takeover by Roche in 2019.
The round was led by Imvax's top existing investor, a holding company controlled by Swiss businessman Hans-Peter Wild, who also owns the Capri Sun drinks brand. Other major shareholders - Ziff Capital Partners, Magnetar Capital and TLP Investment Partners - also participated alongside a new institutional investor, the Invus Group.
"This funding positions us to advance IGV-001 through the next stage of clinical development in glioblastoma, explore other solid tumour indications, and start the build-out of additional capabilities needed to operationalise our unique approach to delivering this therapy," Mr Furey said.
He identified Imvax's ultimate goal as "improving outcomes for people living with devastating and intractable solid tumour cancers".
The IGV-001 treatment combines the patients' own tumour cells with 'antisense molecules'. These manipulate and modify DNA and RNA (ribonucleic acid).
Results from Imvax's 1b trials of IGV-001 were presented last year to the American Association for Cancer Research. They found that patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma experienced better rates of progression-free survival. Its Phase 2 trials are expected to begin in early 2021.
Imvax says IGV-001 also has shown pre-clinical promise for effective use in other solid tumour cancers, including breast and pancreatic cancers. Phase 1 trials are expected to begin in these areas also in early 2021.