South Korea and Chinese investors have sunk a collective $12.5 million into an Oxford University spinout that promises a more efficient and cheaper way to make cancer vaccines.
The financing round potentially opens up the Korean market for Oxford Vacmedix (OVM), which already out-licensed its recombinant overlapping peptide technology to a joint venture registered in Hong Kong. Much of the science, however, actually takes place in Changzhou (between Nanjing and Shanghai), where an OVM center has been conducting early-stage validation of the technology developed by scientific founder and CSO Shisong Jiang.
He found a way to produce overlapping peptides in a bacterial system, rather than synthesizing them chemically, resulting in an endless stream of recombinant protein and the overlapping peptides.
Jiang, who earned his medical degree in China, came to Oxford by way of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Harvard’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute, where he completed his PhD and did post-doc work, respectively. He started down the road of entrepreneurship in 2012 and immediately looked to China for growth opportunities.
Both private investors — with backgrounds in construction/engineering and advertising, respectively — and the government chipped in for the Changzhou facility, and have come back for this round of financing.
They are joined by Cancer ROP, a South Korean healthcare institution that recently started focusing on cancer drugs. It is also closely associated with one of the biggest hospital groups in the country, Oxford Vacmedix director Anthony Coombs told Endpoints News, which can help the biotech identify where its cancer vaccines can best be used.
“We look forward to a productive and mutually beneficial partnership with OVM especially in global clinical trial aspects and confident that we can support the continued growth and development of the company,” said Cancer ROP CEO Wang-Jun Lee in a statement.
The new funds will carry OVM through preclinical development to the beginning of Phase I trials in two lead programs: OVM-100 is an HPV vaccine targeting cervical cancer, while OVM-200 attacks solid tumors with an apoptosis inhibitor called survivin. (The PhI trials are expected to commence this year.) The biotech is also hoping to develop its manufacturing capacities from lab to production scale, at which point it plans to outsource the work to a UK contract manufacturing organization.
Asian money has been flowing around the UK.
When British Prime Minister Theresa May visited China last month, Chinese investors pledged $1.3 billion to UK life science investments, and Beijing’s TsingHua University unveiled a joint early-stage research center with Cambridge’s Trinity College. South Korea’s largest venture capital firm, Korea Investment Partners, backed UK synthetic biology player Prokarium in a $10 million round announced just days ago.
”(T)here’s a lot of appetite in Asia (…) people are very interested to actually engage with the really good academic work that’s being done in Oxford,” Coombs said.
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