Chimerix Founder’s Antiva Nabs $16 Million and Taps Longtime Biotech Exec as New CEO

Astellas Pharma, Proteostasis Therapeutics Forge $1.2 Billion Genetic Disease Drug Development Pact

August 6, 2015
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

SAN FRANCISCO – Helmed by a new chief executive officer, Antiva Biosciences, Inc., freshly infused with $16 million in Series B financing, is set to take on the virus directly associated with cervical cancer.

The $16 million will be used to advance Antiva‘s lead compound, ABI-1968, a topical antiviral for the treatment of high-risk strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) infections, the primary cause of cervical cancer, through Phase I clinical trials. Antiva said its ABI-1968 compound has “potent antiviral effect on several common strains of HPV,” that can not only lead to cervical cancer, but is also associated with head, neck and anal cancer.

Newly appointed CEO Gail Maderis may prevent replication of high-risk HPV, including the two subtypes that cause 70 percent of all cases of cervical cancer.

Currently surgery is the only option for those individuals, Maderis said.

“I am hopeful Antiva can become the first biotech company to develop a direct-acting antiviral therapy for HPV, and I look forward to working with such a successful group of investors and entrepreneurs,” Maderis said in a statement.

While $16 million may not seem like much when it comes to developing an HPV vaccine, Maderis told XConomy she believes the amount is sufficient to bring ABI-1968 through Phase I trials. After that study, she said the company will secure more funding to take the drug through additional trials. Antiva’s latest round of financing was co-led by Canaan Partners and Sofinnova Ventures, with existing investors also contributing to the financing, the company said.

There are currently three HPV vaccines on the market Cervarix, Gardasil, and Gardasil 9, however those drugs are not widely used. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV vaccination is recommended for preteen girls and boys at age 11 or 12 years.

Before coming to Antiva, Maderis recently completed a stint as the head of BayBio, the northern California biotech trade group, which earlier this year merged with the California Healthcare Institute (CHI) to form the California Life Sciences Association. Before BayBio, Maderis spent six years CEO of Five Prime Therapeutics, Inc. and the six years before that as president of Genzyme Molecular Oncology.

Prior to joining Antiva, Maderis told the San Francisco Business Times that she was set on retiring. But, Steve James, Antiva’s new chairman of the board of directors, approached her about taking the company’s top executive slot. The Times said he outlined “the business landscape for the experimental but potentially easy-to-apply HPV treatment and the possibility to move to the clinic relatively quickly.” Maderis said the opportunity was right, especially to be able to bring a breakthrough product to market “to really make a difference in an area where there are no direct therapies.”

Antiva was founded in 2012 as Hera Therapeutics by Karl Hostetler, who also founded Chimerix Inc., Vical and Triangle Pharmaceuticals, Inc..