Biotech upstart gets $50M to test new virus-based therapies against solid tumors
The team at OncoMyx is trying to leverage one therapeutic to treat several forms of cancer, using the Myxoma virus. Wednesday, it announced the closing of a $50 million Series B financing to take it a step closer to that goal.
The round was co-led by Lumira Ventures and B Capital Group with participation from LYZZ Capital and its Series A investors Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund, Delos Capital, Xeraya Capital, Korea Investment Partners, City Hill Ventures, and Madison Partners. Beni Rovinski, the managing director at Lumira Ventures, and Widya Mulyasasmita, the senior principal of healthcare at B Capital Group, will join the companies board of directors.
“We’re pretty excited about it, we’re really kind of right on track for getting this particular program into people,” CEO Steve Potts said.
Potts has worked in oncology for two decades, getting his PhD from the University of California-Davis and working for SurroMed, Biovia and Quest Diagnostics in his early career. Most recently, he was with Ignyta, which he called a classic precision medicine story in which he had an amazing inhibitor, and they tested 30,000 patients in 16 countries, just to get 50 people for trials. With OncoMyx, the goal is to leverage myxoma’s unique qualities to build a one-therapeutic immunotherapy platform to deliver multiple cancer-killing payloads.
There are three things that are truly needed: a programmable multi-arming concept; systemic, IV delivery; and a nonhuman pathogen to get around any pre-existing human immunity. The multi-armed myxoma virus delivers different anti-tumor immunomodulatory proteins that hit critical points in the cancer’s immunity cycle and stimulate an anti-tumor response. Since it’s not a human pathogen, there’s no pre-existing immunity to overcome.
“If you look at immunotherapy currently, about 1 of every 7 patients are currently benefiting from immunotherapy..and that’s kind of across the board, across all tumors types,” Potts said in a call with Endpoints News. “Of course we all know that everybody’s trying a lot of different things, but what we see here is that we can program a virus with multiple additional transgenes in it and delivery it systemically to really move that needle so that 6 out of 7 patients that currently aren’t benefiting from immunotherapy, we can get that number down.”
Preclinical data show that OncoMyx has shown safety and efficacy in a range of cancers, from hematological malignancies to solid tumor, the company said. The funding will help them advance the program in GI tumors. It will also go toward improving the manufacturing operations.
Currently, OncoMyx is partnered with one US-based manufacturer. The manufacturing process for the myxoma virus is similar to the manufacturing process for the smallpox vaccine, and the company is using that already-existing know-how to apply that to its newest process.
“Some of that vaccine knowledge we can certainly apply, and we have been as we build this out,” he said. “The nice thing about this particular virus is that it’s very stable, and so once it’s engineered, it lends itself to manufacturing. You can put six different anti-cancer agents into it, and still have the virus behave as it behaves in nature. It’s very exciting.”
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