$40 million investment will advance study of Nexvax2
By Amy Ratner, Medical and Science News Analyst
ImmusanT has received $40 million in financing to fund further research into Nexvax2, a therapeutic vaccine to treat celiac disease. ARCH Venture Partners, who led the Series C financing, joins Vatera Healthcare Partners as an equity investor in the company.
Additionally, Steven Gillis, Ph.D., an renowned immunologist, is joining the company’s Board of Directors, along with Thomas O. Daniel, former president at Celgene Corporation. Gillis is credited as a pioneer in the field of cytokines, small secreted proteins released by cells that have an effect on the interactions between cells. Exposure to gluten results in early changes in the levels of cytokines in the blood of those who have celiac disease and are on a gluten-free diet.
The financing from ARCH Venture Partners and Vatera Healthcare Partners will be used to fund a phase 2 trial of Nexvax2, as well as a diagnostic tool for celiac disease that has the potential to eliminate the need for those already on the gluten-free diet to go through a lengthy gluten challenge. Initial studies to test the Nexvax approach for other autoimmune diseases will also be funded by the investment. ImmusanT in 2014 received $12 million in Series B financing from Vatera Healthcare Partners.
“ARCH’s investment reflects the potential of Nexvax2 to induce antigen-specific tolerance for the treatment of celiac disease, and the potential of ImmusanT’s broader platform to treat a range of autoimmune diseases including type 1 diabetes,” Gillis said.
“With this investment, we are well-positioned to advance Nexvax2 in the clinic and advance the biomarker program,” said Leslie Williams, president and CEO of ImmusanT.
Nexvax2 is a form of immunotherapy, a promising approach to celiac disease that uses the body’s own immune system to treat or prevent disease.The premise behind Nexvax2 is that if a small amount of the vaccine is given at first and the amount gradually increased, the immune system of those who have celiac disease and the gene most commonly associated with it, HLA-DQ2.5, will build up resistance to the harmful protein in gluten without any negative effects. Nexvax2 would be used along with the gluten-free diet.