Press release – June 23, 2015
Funds will be used to progress ViraT’s lead product VSV-GP towards clinical proof of concept in patients with solid tumors.
Innsbruck, Austria, 23 June 2015 - ViraTherapeutics GmbH (ViraT), a privately held biopharmaceutical company developing cancer immunotherapies based on oncolytic (cancer-destroying) viruses, announces the first closing of a Series A financing round, raising €3.6 million. The round was co-led by Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF) and EMBL Ventures, and included an investment from Austria Wirtschaftsservice (aws) through its Venture-Capital-Initiative.
ViraT was created in 2013 as a spin-out from the Medical University of Innsbruck. The Company has recently been awarded a €1.6 million financing from the Austrian Research Promoting Agency (Research Studio Austria) and the aws Seedfinancing programme.
ViraT will use these funds to advance its lead product VSV-GP through pre-clinical studies prior to clinical Phase 1b testing to demonstrate early clinical proof of concept. ViraT expects to start its first clinical trials with VSV-GP in cancer patients in 2017.
VSV-GP is a highly potent oncolytic virus that carries the surface protein from the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). VSV-GP, due to this LCMV pseudo-typing could be the first oncolytic virus therapeutic to be administered systemically on a repeated basis without its cancer killing properties being inactivated by the patient’s immune system.
VSV-GP replicates specifically and rapidly in tumour cells resulting in their destruction. This results in a profound local immunization effect that further enhances the effectiveness of VSV-GP. Based on its unique characteristics, VSV-GP has significant potential in the immuno-oncology space either as a stand-alone agent or in combination with other treatment options.
Prof. Dorothee von Laer, Founder, Chief Scientific Officer of ViraT and the inventor of VSV-GP, said: “We are delighted to have received this financial support from such experienced life sciences investors; their knowledge and experience will be invaluable as we take the next important steps in the development of ViraT. This round of financing will allow us to take VSV-GP into the clinic where we hope to demonstrate that this unique oncolytic viral therapeutic can deliver important benefits to patients with solid tumours.”
“To my knowledge VSV-GP is the only viral vector system that effectively boosts itself, enabling it to evade neutralization by auto-drug antibodies upon repeated administration. These properties are expected to allow ground-breaking application of VSV-GP in tumour therapy, either in combination with other immuno-oncology principles or via in cis expression of antibodies, cytokines and tumor-associated antigens by VSV-GP itself,” said Dr. Detlev Mennerich, Investment Director at BIVF.
Dr. Jan Adams, a Managing Director at EMBL Ventures, added: “ViraT’s VSV-GP clearly stands-out in the exciting immuno-oncology space given it could be the first oncolytic viral treatment with the ability to be administered systemically on multiple occasions. This is a key differentiator and is expected to make a significant difference to the treatment benefits it could deliver to cancer patients. We are very pleased to be supporting ViraT as it strives to become a leading player in the highly promising immuno-oncology space”.
Bernhard Sagmeister, Managing Director of aws noted: “We are looking forward to supporting ViraT in the development of this unique approach for the treatment of cancer. Their excellent work is an important example of the high quality research that is being conducted in leading Austrian universities and how this can be applied to provide ground breaking therapies for patients with solid tumours.”
In conjunction with this financing, Drs. Mennerich and Adams, together with Dr. Rolf Kapferer will join the Advisory Board of ViraTherapeutics GmbH.
Notes to Editors
ViraTherapeutics GmbH (ViraT) is a privately held biopharmaceutical company that is developing promising innovative virus-based immunotherapeutics for the treatment of cancer. ViraT was founded in 2013 as a spin-out of the Medical University of Innsbruck, (Austria), by Prof. Dr. Dorothee von Laer, head of the Virology Division at the University. ViraT develops oncolytic cancer vaccines based on a chimeric virus derived from the Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) called VSV-GP. VSV-GP has proved to be safe and highly effective in a broad range of pre-clinical cancer models. It has also been shown to be effective upon repeated application, which is unique among vector vaccines and therapeutic viruses. The Company expects to begin clinical development of VSV-GP by 2017. Initially ViraT received Pre-Seed financing funds from CAST, Tyrol, and from the Austria Wirtschaftsservice (aws). The company currently has 6 employees, and collaborates with a team of scientists, working in the labs of Prof. von Laer, at the University. For more information please visit www.viratherapeutics.com.
About Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund:
Created in 2010, the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund GmbH (BIVF) invests in ground breaking therapeutics-focused biotechnology companies to drive innovation in biomedical research. BIVF is searching for significant enhancements in patient care through pioneering science and its clinical translation by building long-term relationships with scientists and entrepreneurs. BIVF’s focus is to target unprecedented therapeutic concepts addressing high medical needs in immuno-oncology, in regenerative medicine or gene therapy. These may include novel platform technologies to address so far undrugable targets, new generation vaccines and/or new biological entities, such as oncolytic virotherapy. BIVF takes an active role with its portfolio companies – delivering significant added value through its own extensive drug discovery, scientific and managerial expertise. The BIVF has €100 million under management and supervises currently a portfolio of 15 active companies. For more information, please visit www.boehringer-ingelheim-venture.com
About EMBL Ventures:
EMBL Ventures is an independent venture capital investor that manages two Funds with a total of €68 million capital on behalf of major European institutional and private investors. EMBL Ventures' close relationship with the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and its technology transfer organization, EMBL Enterprise Management Technology Transfer GmbH (EMBLEM), allows it to finance disruptive technologies in an entrepreneurial start-up environment, aiming ultimately for a transaction with a partner that is seeking to acquire external product innovation. EMBL Ventures is exclusively focused on life-science investments. For more information please visit www.embl-ventures.com.
About Austria Wirtschaftsservice (aws):
Austria Wirtschaftsservice GmbH (aws) is Austria's government promotional bank. As a specialist bank under public ownership it is geared towards corporate finance with a focus on "start-ups" and "growth and industry". By providing low-interest loans, guarantees, subsidies and equity capital, it supports companies with the implementation of their innovative projects, especially when the necessary funds cannot be adequately raised through other means. Specific information, advice and services are also offered to prospective, existing and expanding companies. Further information please visit www.awsg.at.
For ViraTherapeutics GmbH
Dorothee von Laer
T: +43 512 9000371701
David Dible, Citigate Dewe Rogerson
T: +44 20 7282 9571