Global syndicate backs Prokarium’s $10M round; Bavarian Nordic to test cancer vaccine with Imfinzi; AI startup buys drug development facility

→ The UK synthetic biology player Prokarium has raised $10 million from a global syndicate of investors to back its work on oral vaccines. The money came from the Riyadh Valley Company, the venture capital arm of King Saud University, as well as Sweden’s Flerie Invest and Korea Investment Partners, South Korea’s largest venture capital firm.

Bavarian Nordic (OMX: $BAVA) is adding Imfinzi to the list of checkpoint inhibitors it plans to test in combination with CV-301, in the aftermath of a separate prostate cancer vaccine flop last September. In addition to supplying the PD-L1 drug, AstraZeneca will provide financial support for the Phase I/II combo study, to be led by Georgetown University. The trial will focus on patients with metastatic colorectal or pancreatic cancers. Progression-free survival will be the primary endpoint, while secondary endpoints include objective response rate, overall survival and disease control rate. The Danish biotech is also investigating CV-301 with Merck’s Keytruda in non-small cell lung cancer and Roche’s Tecentriq in bladder cancer.

→ In a notable expansion of its capabilities, BenevolentAI has acquired a drug discovery and development facility in Cambridge, UK that allows the London-based AI upstart to get into late-stage clinical testing much faster. The numbers were not disclosed, but we do know the facility is located on the Babraham Research Campus, the leading British bioscience hub that’s undergoing growth of its own. With the new research center comes a scientific team experienced with a swath of drug development work including assay screening, synthetic chemistry and pharmacology. That team will work with BenevolentAI’s scientists in using their algorithms to advance drug programs.

Aevitas Therapeutics, the Fortress Biotech $FBIO spinout focused on gene therapies for complete-mediated diseases, has enlisted the help of University of Massachusetts professor Guangping Gao as both a research partner and scientific adviser. Gao is an expert in adeno-associated virus gene therapy who has a collaboration agreement with Spark Therapeutics focused on retina, liver and central nervous system. His new sponsored research agreement with Aevitas will evaluate construct optimization based on the New York biotech’s AAV tech. He has also joined its scientific advisory board as the first member.

With contribution by John Carroll.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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