CEO Adam Simpson (Icosavax)

Icosavax keeps up the ex­cite­ment for its VLP 'soc­cer balls,' earn­ing the RA Cap­i­tal stamp of ap­proval in $100M Se­ries B

Rough­ly a year and a half since its last raise, Icosavax scored a fresh goal Wednes­day morn­ing in nab­bing new funds for its soc­cer ball-like VLP vac­cine tech. And the Seat­tle-based com­pa­ny is bring­ing in a high-pro­file set of new in­vestors.

Icosavax un­veiled a $100 mil­lion Se­ries B, backed by Pe­ter Kolchin­sky’s RA Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment and Per­cep­tive Ad­vi­sors, among oth­ers. Kolchin­sky scores a board seat with the raise, as the biotech plans to use its new­found cash to ad­vance a hand­ful of vac­cine pro­grams for SARS-CoV-2 and virus­es that trig­ger pneu­mo­nia.

Neil King

The big idea around Icosavax cen­ters around its virus-like par­ti­cle vac­cine plat­form, de­vel­oped out of the lab of Neil King at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton. King and his team built on years-old re­search of how some vi­ral pro­teins could spon­ta­neous­ly as­sem­ble them­selves, work­ing out a de­sign sys­tem for sim­i­lar par­ti­cles with soft­ware.

His re­search pro­duces an end re­sult of what’s es­sen­tial­ly a par­ti­cle shaped like a soc­cer ball — the “white” parts mak­ing up the struc­ture and the “black” spots rep­re­sent­ing the dis­played anti­gens. It’s the same tech­nol­o­gy King is us­ing to de­vel­op a “su­per-sea­son­al” flu vac­cine de­scribed in a new pa­per pub­lished just a few weeks ago, though Icosavax wasn’t in­volved in that re­search.

Orig­i­nal­ly, Icosavax had been work­ing on a vac­cine for res­pi­ra­to­ry syn­cy­tial virus. The com­pa­ny is still work­ing on that can­di­date, which in­cor­po­rates an anti­gen that has com­plet­ed a Phase I study run by the NIH. Wednes­day’s funds will be used for not on­ly this pro­gram, known as IVX-121, but a new­er can­di­date that aims to tack­le two virus­es at once, CEO Adam Simp­son told End­points News.

One of the break­throughs dis­cov­ered at the NIH dealt with the na­ture of the RSV anti­gen it­self. The virus, un­be­knownst to re­searchers for years, is a shapeshifter — it presents dif­fer­ent­ly af­ter it in­vades cells. His­tor­i­cal­ly, sci­en­tists had gone af­ter the post-fu­sion form of the virus, but that didn’t stop the virus from caus­ing in­fec­tions.

But the NIH man­aged to sta­bi­lize an anti­gen rep­re­sent­ing the pre­fu­sion form of the virus, Simp­son said, which is ul­ti­mate­ly what Icosavax li­censed.

In the 17 or so months fol­low­ing the last round, Icosavax has ad­vanced its RSV pro­gram as in­tend­ed, and is now al­so look­ing to make a dual vac­cine to fight both RSV and hu­man metap­neu­movirus. Both are preva­lent caus­es of pneu­mo­nia from the vi­ral side of things, as op­posed to bet­ter-known pneu­mo­coc­cal bac­te­ria.

“In this case we’ll have two dif­fer­ent ‘soc­cer balls’ in one vial,” Simp­son told End­points. The de­sign could have fea­tured a sin­gle soc­cer ball dis­play­ing both RSV and hM­PV as well.

The plan, Simp­son added, is to start with the RSV vac­cine and then “lay­er” the hM­PV anti­gens in­to the shot as de­vel­op­ment con­tin­ues. IVX-121 is ex­pect­ed to en­ter an­oth­er clin­i­cal tri­al lat­er this year, and based on the da­ta should en­able the bi­va­lent vac­cine stud­ies.

Icosavax’s Covid-19 pro­gram al­so got some love from the in­vestor group, with some of Wednes­day’s funds head­ed to­ward a Phase I tri­al launch for the can­di­date this year. This vac­cine, dubbed IVX-411, has al­ready re­ceived $10 mil­lion in back­ing from the Bill and Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion. Am­gen is al­so chip­ping in on the man­u­fac­tur­ing side, agree­ing to pro­duce a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of the com­pound and al­low­ing for a more rapid tran­si­tion in­to Phase I.

Simp­son stayed mum on time­lines for da­ta read­outs, not­ing that with the pan­dem­ic still rag­ing en­roll­ment rates can be dif­fi­cult to pre­dict. And de­spite the crossover na­ture of the round, he de­murred about po­ten­tial IPO plans, say­ing “we’re well aware of the mar­ket.”

RA Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment led the round, and Per­cep­tive was joined by oth­er new in­vestors Janus Hen­der­son In­vestors, Viking Glob­al In­vestors, Cor­morant As­set Man­age­ment, Omega Funds, and Sur­vey­or Cap­i­tal. Icosavax’s ex­ist­ing in­vestors al­so par­tic­i­pat­ed, in­clud­ing Qim­ing Ven­ture Part­ners USA, Adams Street Part­ners, Sanofi Ven­tures, and ND Cap­i­tal. A pre­vi­ous­ly an­nounced fund­ing from Open Phil­an­thropy was in­clud­ed in this round.

2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Dipal Doshi, Entrada Therapeutics CEO

Ver­tex just found the next big ‘trans­for­ma­tive’ thing for the pipeline — at a biotech just down the street

Back in the summer of 2019, when I was covering Vertex’s executive chairman Jeff Leiden’s plans for the pipeline, I picked up on a distinct focus on myotonic dystrophy Type I, or DM1 — one of what Leiden called “two diseases (with DMD) we’re interested in and we continue to look for those assets.”

Today, Leiden’s successor at the helm of Vertex, CEO Reshma Kewalramani, is plunking down $250 million in cash to go the extra mile on DM1. The lion’s share of that is for the upfront, with a small reserve for equity in a deal that lines Vertex up with a neighbor in Seaport that has been rather quietly going at both of Vertex’s early disease targets with preclinical assets.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Christian Itin, Autolus CEO (UKBIO19)

Au­to­lus tips its hand, bags $220M as CAR-T show­down with Gilead looms

The first batch of pivotal data on Autolus Therapeutics’ CAR-T is in, and execs are ready to plot a path to market.

With an overall remission rate of 70% at the interim analysis featuring 50 patients, the results set the stage for a BLA filing by the end of 2023, said CEO Christian Itin.

Perhaps more importantly — given that Autolus’ drug, obe-cel, is going after an indication that Gilead’s Tecartus is already approved for — the biotech highlighted “encouraging safety data” in the trial, with a low percentage of patients experiencing severe immune responses.

WIB22: Am­ber Salz­man had few op­tions when her son was di­ag­nosed with a rare ge­net­ic dis­ease. So she cre­at­ed a bet­ter one

This profile is part of Endpoints News’ 2022 special report about Women in Biopharma R&D. You can read the full report here.

Amber Salzman’s life changed on a cold, damp day in Paris over tiny plastic cups of lukewarm tea.

She was meeting with Patrick Aubourg, a French neurologist studying adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD, a rare genetic condition that causes rapid neurological decline in young boys. It’s a sinister disease that often leads to disability or death within just a few years. Salzman’s nephew was diagnosed at just 6 or 7 years old, and died at the age of 12.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 154,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Ahead of ad­comm, FDA rais­es un­cer­tain­ties on ben­e­fit-risk pro­file of Cy­to­ki­net­ic­s' po­ten­tial heart drug

The FDA’s Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee will meet next Tuesday to discuss whether Cytokinetics’ potential heart drug can safely reduce the risk of cardiovascular death and heart failure in patients with symptomatic chronic heart failure with reduced ejection fraction.

The drug, known as omecamtiv mecarbil and in development for more than 15 years, has seen mixed results, with a first Phase III readout from November 2020 hitting the primary endpoint of reducing the odds of hospitalization or other urgent care for heart failure by 8%. But it also missed a key secondary endpoint analysts had pegged as key to breaking into the market.

Ab­b­Vie slapped with age dis­crim­i­na­tion law­suit, fol­low­ing oth­er phar­mas

Add AbbVie to the list of pharma companies currently facing age discrimination allegations.

Pennsylvania resident Thomas Hesch filed suit against AbbVie on Wednesday, accusing the company of passing him over for promotions in favor of younger candidates.

Despite 30 years of pharma experience, “Hesch has consistently seen younger, less qualified employees promoted over him,” the complaint states.

Rami Elghandour, Arcellx CEO

Up­dat­ed: Gilead, Ar­cel­lx team up on an­ti-BC­MA CAR-T as biotech touts a 100% re­sponse rate at #ASH22

Gilead and Kite are plunking down big cash to get into the anti-BCMA CAR-T game.

The pair will shell out $225 million in cash upfront and $100 million in equity to Arcellx, Kite announced Friday morning, to develop the biotech’s lead CAR-T program together. Kite will handle commercialization and co-development with Arcellx, and profits in the US will be split 50-50.

Concurrent with the deal, Arcellx revealed its latest cut of data for the program known as CART-ddBCMA, ahead of a full presentation at this weekend’s ASH conference — a 100% response rate among patients getting the therapy. Investors jumped at the dual announcements, sending Arcellx shares $ACLX up more than 25% in Friday’s morning session.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 154,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

WIB22: Lead­ing NK cell re­searcher re­flects on roots in Iran, the UK and Texas

This profile is part of Endpoints News’ 2022 special report about Women in Biopharma R&D. You can read the full report here.

In a small but widely-cited 11-person study published in NEJM in 2020, seven patients saw signs of their cancer completely go away after getting a new therapy made from natural killer cells. The study was one of the earliest to provide clinical proof that the experimental treatment method had promise.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 154,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Philip Astley-Sparke, Replimune CEO

Replimune looks to rope in $225M on the back of melanoma da­ta

The Massachusetts-based, oncolytic virus biotech Replimune is feeling bullish now that it has lifted the cover on data for its lead product.

Replimune said Thursday it looks to nab about $225 million from a public offering after giving a snapshot of some initial data from its IGNYTE clinical study earlier this week. The trial is investigating RP1 in combination with Opdivo, for patients with melanoma and who did not have a response when being treated with a PD-1.