Ox­ford Vacmedix moves can­cer vac­cines for­ward with $12.5M from South Ko­rea, Chi­na

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.

Shisong Jiang

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.

An­tho­ny Coombs

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.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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So what hap­pened with No­var­tis' gene ther­a­py group? Here's your an­swer

Over the last couple of days it’s become clear that the gene therapy division at Novartis has quietly undergone a major reorganization. We learned on Monday that Dave Lennon, who had pursued a high-profile role as president of the unit with 1,500 people, had left the pharma giant to take over as CEO of a startup.

Like a lot of the majors, Novartis is an open highway for head hunters, or anyone looking to staff a startup. So that was news but not completely unexpected.

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Who are the women su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for this year's spe­cial re­port

The biotech industry has faced repeated calls to diversify its workforce — and in the last year, those calls got a lot louder. Though women account for just under half of all biotech employees around the world, they occupy very few places in C-suites, and even fewer make it to the helm.

Some companies are listening, according to a recent BIO survey which showed that this year’s companies were 2.5 times more likely to have a diversity and inclusion program compared to last year’s sample. But we still have a long way to go. Women represent just 31% of biotech executives, BIO reported. And those numbers are even more stark for women of color.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.

When ef­fi­ca­cy is bor­der­line: FDA needs to get more con­sis­tent on close-call drug ap­provals, agency-fund­ed re­search finds

In the exceedingly rare instances in which clinical efficacy is the only barrier to a new drug’s approval, new FDA-funded research from FDA and Stanford found that the agency does not have a consistent standard for defining “substantial evidence” when flexible criteria are used for an approval.

The research comes as the FDA is at a crossroads with its expedited-review pathways. The accelerated approval pathway is under fire as the agency recently signed off on a controversial new Alzheimer’s drug, with little precedent to explain its decision. Meanwhile, top officials like Rick Pazdur have called for a major push to simplify and clarify all of the various expedited pathways, which have grown to be must-haves for sponsors of nearly every newly approved drug.

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Af­ter sell­ing to Genen­tech, the old Je­cure team is back at an RNA-fo­cused start­up — and more en­thu­si­as­tic than ever

When Genentech swooped in to buy NASH-focused Jecure Therapeutics back in 2018, a handful of the startup’s executives weren’t quite ready to disperse.

It had been just three years since Jecure launched with a preclinical portfolio of NLRP3 inhibitors — and the takeover came sooner than anyone, including CEO Jeff Stafford, had expected. So he got talking with James Veal and Gretchen Bain, two serial entrepreneurs in charge of Jecure’s R&D.

Lat­est news: It’s a no on uni­ver­sal boost­ers; Pa­tient death stuns gene ther­a­py field; In­side Tril­li­um’s $2.3B turn­around; and more

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