Swiss biotech firm and Merck KGaA spin-off VAXIMM AG has announced the closing of a private financing round totaling CHF 7.8 million from new and existing investors. BB Biotech Ventures and Merck KGaA were joined by new investors Sunstone Capital, Merck Serono Ventures and BioMedPartners. The company plans to use the proceeds of the financing to progress its lead program VXM01 into and through clinical phase I testing.
VXM01 is an investigational oral T-cell vaccine that is designed to elicit an immune response against vascular endothelium growth factor receptor-2 (VEGFR-2), a well characterized target for anti-angiogenic intervention. VXM01 targets the tumor vasculature and has shown anti-tumour activity in a variety of animal studies testing different tumour types, different experimental setups, and different outcome measures. The first human clinical trials of the vaccine are expected to start in 2011. The original work on VXM01 was conducted at The Scripps Research Institute and the project was in-licensed by VAXIMM from Merck KGaA in 2008.
Dr Klaus Breiner, chairman of VAXIMM’s board of directors, and a Managing Partner at BB BIOTECH VENTURES commented: “We are delighted that we could attract two experienced, specialized venture capital firms, Sunstone Capital and BioMedPartners, as new investors in VAXIMM. The participation of Merck Serono Ventures shows the continued commitment of Merck and demonstrates the attractiveness and potential of our lead vaccine candidate VXM01”.
Dr Heinz Lubenau, General Manager of VAXIMM GmbH, a fully owned subsidiary of VAXIMM AG in Germany, commented: “The funds will allow us to test this innovative and promising concept for the first time in patients suffering from cancer. Moreover, the new investors including Merck Serono Ventures will bring additional expertise and networks to VAXIMM.” Dr Sten Verland, Partner at Sunstone Capital and Dr. Gerhard Ries, Co-founder and General Partner of BioMedPartners, are joining VAXIMM’s board of directors.