Venture

Boehringer backs $33M cancer vaccine play at Switzerland’s AMAL Therapeutics

A cancer vaccine developer spun out of the University of Geneva has garnered €29 million ($32.7 million) to fuel its drive into the clinic.

AMAL Therapeutics managed to convince all the investors who collectively gave €8 million last September to step up their commitment in this second closing of the Series B, featuring co-leaders Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund, BioMed Partners and Helsinn Investment Fund in addition to VI Partners, Schroder Adveq and High-Tech Gründerfonds.

Madiha Derouazi

With a platform tech called KISIMA designed to pack a cell-penetrating peptide for antigen delivery, an adjuvanting TLR- peptide agonist and a multi-antigenic cargo into one single vaccine, the biotech says it is opening up a new class of cancer vaccines that can stoke an immune response in a broader spectrum of patients than the previous generation could.

“KISIMA allows priming of both helper and killer cells for various antigens and for various HLA restrictions, CEO Madiha Derouazi wrote in an email. She went on to explain: “One mechanism of immune escape by tumour cells is down regulation of antigen expression or of HLA presentation, having both multi-antigenic and targeting various HLA would allow to circumvent this immune escape mechanisms.”

The first test will be in stage IV metastatic colorectal cancer, as Derouazi and her team of 15 steer the lead product candidate ATP128 toward clinical proof-of-concept across the US and Europe, expected to begin in summer 2019.

A seasoned researcher in the field, Derouazi first devised the cell-penetrating peptide-based vaccine at the Laboratory of Tumour Immunology at the University of Geneva.

AMAL also says that its cancer vaccine — like many of its counterparts — makes good combinations with other immune modulation agents, which is why it’s testing ATP128 with an anti-PD1 in its first-in-human studies. It will now have to prove that its approach can find a place in the wave of next-gen cancer vaccines being progressed, including mRNA efforts at Moderna and BioNTech as well as the personalized route advanced by Neon and Gritstone.


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