Therapy Areas: Infectious Diseases
Icosavax Launches with USD 51m Series A Financing to Advance Computationally Designed VLP Vaccines
4 October 2019 - - US-based Icosavax, Inc. has launched the company with a USD 51m series A financing, led by Qiming Venture Partners USA and joined by Adams Street Partners, Sanofi Ventures and NanoDimension, with continuing support from its seed investors, the company said.

The company was founded on computationally designed self-assembling virus-like particle technology developed at the Institute for Protein Design at University of Washington School of Medicine (Cell 2019, Preview).

The proceeds of the financing will be used to advance the company's first vaccine candidate, IVX-121, for respiratory syncytial virus for older adults through Phase 1b clinical studies.

Icosavax also announced its leadership team, board of directors and key scientific advisors.

Adam Simpson is the chief executive officer. He is also the CEO of PvP Biologics, another spinout from IPD. Previously he served as president and chief operating officer of Cypher Genomics (sold to Human Longevity), and chief business officer, Meritage Pharma (sold to Shire).

Doug Holtzman, Ph.D., MPH is the chief scientific officer. Previously, he served as vice president, Discovery, Takeda, and deputy director, Childhood Pneumonia, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Prior to his work in global health he worked in a number of innovative early-stage biotechnology companies, including Millennium Pharmaceuticals (sold to Takeda) and Ironwood.

Niranjan Kanesa-thasan, M.D., MTMH, FIDSA, FASTMH is the chief medical officer and has contributed to the development of seven licensed vaccines.

Previously, he served as the clinical franchise head, GSK Vaccines; chief medical officer, Americas, Novartis Vaccines; and vice president, Medical Affairs and Pharmacovigilance, Acambis (sold to Sanofi Pasteur).

VLPs enable high-density, multivalent display of antigens in a manner that closely resembles viruses, with an important difference. VLPs contain no genetic material, so they are non-infectious and can provide a safer alternative to live-attenuated or inactivated vaccines.

Naturally occurring VLPs have delivered successful vaccines, including Gardasil and Cervarix against human papillomavirus and Engerix-B and Recombivax HB against Hepatitis B. However, VLPs have been difficult to use for the display of complex heterologous antigens, like in the case of RSV.

The company's RSV vaccine candidate, IVX-121, incorporates a stabilized prefusion F antigen licensed from NIAID/NIH (DS-Cav1; Science 2019).

Extensive preclinical studies conducted at IPD and Icosavax suggest that IVX-121 could increase the protective immunogenicity of RSV F compared to the DS-Cav1 antigen alone.

Tachi previously served as chief medical and scientific officer of Takeda Pharmaceuticals, where he was responsible for the acquisitions of Inviragen (dengue vaccine) and LigoCyte (norovirus vaccine).

The board of directors also includes Terry Gould, a partner and head of Growth Equity Investments, Adams Street Partners; Jason Hafler, the US Head of Investments at Sanofi Ventures; Eric Moessinger, a partner of NanoDimension; Mark McDade; and Adam Simpson.

Icosavax's in-licensed computationally designed VLP technology is a product of the IPD's Translational Investigator Program, which enables entrepreneurial researchers to turn their first working versions of designed proteins into commercially viable assets.

The license to this technology was negotiated with CoMotion at the University of Washington, UW's collaborative innovation hub.

Icosavax is focused on developing safe and effective vaccines against infectious diseases that address important unmet medical needs and reduce healthcare costs.

The company was founded on breakthrough computationally designed virus-like particle technology, exclusively licensed for a variety of infectious disease indications from the Institute for Protein Design at the University of Washington. Icosavax is located in Seattle.
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