Former BioVex CEO Who Sold to Amgen for $1 Billion Raises $30 Million for Replimune
Published: Sep 25, 2015
September 24, 2015
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
Oxford, U.K.-based Replimune Ltd. announced today that it had closed on a Series A financing round worth $30 million. The round was led by Atlas Ventures and joined by previous investors Forbion Capital Partners and Omega Funds.
Replimune was founded in April 2015 and led by Robert Coffin, who founded and acted as chief science officer of BioVex Inc. BioVex focused on development of oncolytic virus therapy and was acquired by Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based Amgen in 2011 for $425 million and another $575 in development and sales milestones. Oncolytic viruses are genetically modified viruses that replicate inside cancer cells and stimulate the immune system to mount an attack on the cancer cells.
The technology is the basis of Amgen’s T-Vec (talimogene laherparepvec), which is expected to be decided upon by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Oct. 27. T-Vec is a herpes simplex virus that has been reengineered to replicate inside cancer cells. It churns out so many viral cells that it eventually bursts the cancer cells, which further stimulates the body’s immune system to attack the cancer. It is being evaluated for treatment for advanced melanoma.
Replimune utilizes the same technology.
“Replimune is excited to be at the forefront of oncolytic immunotherapy, and to partner with leading healthcare investors such as Atlas, Forbion and Omega in this funding round,” said Coffin, Replimune chief executive officer, in a statement. “The funds raised will allow us to progress our next generation approach through to clinical data in multiple cancer indications, including in combination with checkpoint blockade.”
Examples of drugs that are checkpoint inhibitors are Merck & Co. ’s Keytruda, Bristol-Myers Squibb ’s Opdivo (nivolumab) and Yervoy (ipilimumab). These drugs act to inhibit cancer cells’ ability to block the body’s immune reaction. By combining an oncolytic that speeds up the body’s immune response to cancer cells and a checkpoint inhibitor that simultaneously brakes the tumor’s ability to block the immune response, researchers think they can dramatically improve cancer treatments.
Replimune indicates that it will also investigate partnering with other companies that have promising approved or experimental checkpoint inhibitors or other complementary immuno-oncology medications.
In addition to the $30 million, Jason Rhodes, a partner at Atlas, will join the board of Replimune. Also joining will be Otello Stampacchia of Omega Funds and Sander Slootweg of Forbion Capital Partners.
“We are at the beginning of the age of immune-oncology and believe that oncolytic viruses will be a powerful component of this emerging therapeutic approach,” Rhodes said in a statement. “Atlas is very pleased to be working with the exceptional and experienced team at Replimune.”
Other companies working in this area include Checkmate Pharmaceuticals, Cytos Biotechnology, Dynavax Technologies Corporation , and Idera Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Dynavax is working with a checkpoint inhibitor developed by Merck, and Idera has partnered with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Will the Presidential Election Change the Face of the Way Prescription Drugs are Sold in the United States?
Although Turing Pharmaceuticals announced it will revise its 5,000 percent increase of a newly acquired drug to treat toxoplasmosis, the move sparked a public outcry that resulted in one presidential candidate calling for price caps on prescription medication.
In August, Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim from Impax Laboratories and increased the price of the medication from $13.50 per tablet to $750 per tablet, a 5,000 percent increase. Turing Chief Executive Officer Martin Shkreli defended the increase, saying the revenues would be used to subsidize new research into treatments for toxoplasmosis. Has since said the company will reduce the price, but did not specify what the price would be.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said if elected she would cap monthly out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs at $250 to avoid “price gouging.” Her comment sent the stock market into a state of flux, with several large companies seeing a drop in their stock of up to 10 percent. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index dropped 4.4 percent and the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF dropped by 6 percent.
BioSpace wants to know what you think: Will the presidential election change the face of the way prescription drugs are sold in the United States?