EpiVax launches EpiVax Oncology for personalized cancer vaccines

EPIVAX PRESIDENT AND CEO Dr. Anne S. De Groot. EpiVax has launched a venture-backed spinoff, Epivax Oncology. / PBN FILE PHOTO
EPIVAX PRESIDENT AND CEO Dr. Anne S. De Groot. EpiVax has launched a venture-backed spinoff, Epivax Oncology. / PBN FILE PHOTO

PROVIDENCE — Immunolgy engineering biotech firm EpiVax Inc. has launched EpiVax Oncology Inc., a venture-backed spinoff focused on the development of personalized therapeutic cancer vaccines.

EpiVax Oncology, an independent company, is conducting a $2 million bridge capital raise to prepare for an Investigational New Drug application as well as a $10 million to $25 million Series A financing to fund the first-in-man clinical trials. EpiVax Inc. has provided $500,000 in seed funding and has provided exclusive access to enabling technologies to the new precision immunotherapy venture.

EpiVax Inc. founder Dr. Anne S. De Groot first spoke with Providence Business News about the spinoff in August. “When we started EpiVax, we always wanted to design vaccines, and now we’re going to be making personalized cancer vaccines,” De Groot said.

Gad Berdugo will lead EpiVax Oncology as CEO. Berdugo brings more than 25 years of biotechnology operational, strategic partnering and financial experience gained at Abbott, Baxter Healthcare, and Lazard Asset Management Group, as well as emerging cancer biotechnology companies.

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EpiVax Oncology’s approach to precision immunotherapy is based on mutated, tumor-specific epitopes, Neo-Epitopes, which generate highly potent specific T cell responses against a wide range of tumor types. The company uses genetic profiling to generate therapeutic vaccines customized for each cancer patient’s unique tumor load. EpiVax Oncology vaccines can be used in combination with checkpoint inhibitors ( drugs – often made of antibodies – that unleash an immune system attack on cancer cells) or potentially as single agents.

EpiVax Oncology’s key competitive advantage is centered on a streamlined, validated, commercial-grade Neo-Epitope in silico discovery platform called Ancer. The Ancer platform is powered by EpiVax’s EpiMatrix and JanusMatrix predictive algorithms and exclusively licensed to EpiVax Oncology for the field of cancer.

Ancer identifies highly immunogenic, Class I and Class II, CD4 and CD8, T cell Neo-Epitopes while selecting out Treg (regulatory T cells) – like epitopes. Candidate Neo-epitopes are qualified and ranked using a proprietary process designed to strengthen vaccine efficacy and decrease the incidence of immune-related adverse events.

EpiVax Oncology is preparing for Phase 1b clinical trials in bladder cancer and melanoma using Ancer-derived neo-peptides formulated in a proprietary clinically-tested delivery vehicle. The first trials are planned to start in 2018.

“EpiVax Oncology will leverage EpiVax’s world class excellence in computational immunology, genomics and vaccine design, built over the last 20 years, to create safe, effective, and affordable immunotherapies. We are committed to delivering on the promise of precision medicine.” said Berdugo.

Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Borkowski@PBN.com.

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