Pfizer is bankrolling a new oncolytic virus startup, taking a 50% stake in the cancer drug outfit while holding an option to buy it if the founders appear to be on the right R&D track.
The upstart is Ignite Immunotherapy, based in Alameda, CA, which is being launched by a group of experienced oncolytics hands. Berkeley adjunct professor David Kirn, the CEO of 4D Molecular Therapeutics, is the co-founder, along with Berkeley’s Dave Schaffer.
Doug Hanahan, director of the Swiss Institute for Cancer Research, is also counted as a co-founder, while Pfizer research exec James Merson joins the board.
Pfizer is also paying for the R&D work at the company over the next three years, as Ignite looks to jump into a wave of up and coming biotechs where are hurrying along next-gen oncolytic vaccines aiming at surpassing the pioneering Imlygic (T-Vec), marketed by Amgen. A bunch of these startups are pairing up with checkpoint inhibitors, a fact that wasn’t lost on Pfizer as it seeks the 4th OK of a checkpoint drug.
It’s a hot and happening field. Boehringer just inked a $230 million deal to partner with ViraTherapeutics. And the startup will join rivals like PsiOxus. Philip Astley-Sparke, who helmed BioVex before Amgen bought it up for T-Vec, co-founded Replimune, another next-gen oncolytic virus player. Mitchell Finer, the former CSO at bluebird bio, took the helm at the upstart Oncorus, which just raised a $57 million venture round and is using a herpes simplex virus for their work on glioblastoma. And Duke University’s Dr. Matthias Gromeier has genetically engineered his virus to keep it focused on cancer, and away from healthy tissues.
The best place to read Endpoints News? In your inbox.
Comprehensive daily news report for those who discover, develop, and market drugs. Join 41,800+ biopharma pros who read Endpoints News by email every day.Free Subscription