Startups, Venture

Two years in, the team at NousCom bags $49M to fund first human studies of neoantigen drugs

As NousCom CEO Alfredo Nicosia likes to say, the Basel-based biotech is a relative fledgling at 2-years of age. But the core research team there has been working together for quite a few years.

Nicosia and co-founder Riccardo Cortese — the original NousCom CEO who died earlier this year — had managed Okairos until GlaxoSmithKline came along to bag the company and its tech for spurring an immune assault on infectious diseases for $325 million in 2013. And now Nicosia and the team are off building a pair of new platforms, keying off of their knowledge of the immune system in the sizzling hot immuno-oncology arena, with a fresh $49 million round to push the lead program into the clinic next year.

Nicosia had been part of a team that spun out of Merck in 2007. Now he’s prepping NOUS-209 for the first human study, using a shared antigen approach in developing an off-the-shelf cancer vaccine for the prevention of cancer among Lynch Syndrome Carriers, who have a higher genetic risk for colorectal, endometrial, and gastric cancers. The same drug can do double duty as a therapeutic vaccine for Microsatellite Instability — tumors containing abnormalities that affect DNA repair.

Alfredo Nicosia YouTube

A personalized neoantigen vaccine is in the works,  NOUS-100-PV, while a separate platform for oncolytic virus cancer therapies is coming up behind it.

Following up on a $14 million Series A in the spring of 2016, COO Marina Udier Blagovic says this new injection of cash should carry the company through 2021 as they explore industry partnerships and build out the pipeline, with a clear shot at providing human proof-of-concept data for their neoantigen work — a field that has attracted a growing lineup of biotech players.

They’ve been building their investor syndicate as well, with a transatlantic group of VCs coming in to back the experienced group. New investor Abingworth came in on the B round, with participation from 5AM Ventures and existing investors LSP and Versant Ventures contributing cash as well.

Nicosia doesn’t have much to say about what happened to the infectious disease work that was acquired by GSK — a pharma giant which has a poor record at advancing innovative technologies. This next time around, though, he’s looking to build some noteworthy cancer therapies.



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