Virion Therapeutics, LLC Raises $5 Million to Develop Checkpoint Inhibitor Powered Vaccine Therapies for Treatment of Virally Induced Infectious Diseases & Cancers
PHILADELPHIA — (Sept. 26, 2018) — A new Philadelphia-based start-up, Virion Therapeutics, LLC spun out of The Wistar Institute, will work to advance innovative, immune-based therapies for the treatment of chronic viral-associated cancers and viral infections utilizing the first genetically encoded checkpoint inhibitor that can be given via vaccination. Virion is co-founded by Hildegund C.J. Ertl, M.D., professor in the Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center at Wistar, along with life science entrepreneurs Andrew D. Luber, Pharm.D., and Bernard Rudnick, MBA.
The Virion technology is built on a two-prong strategy that combines the use of replication-incompetent chimpanzee adenoviral vectors (ChiVax) with concomitant expression of glycoprotein D (gD), a novel checkpoint inhibitor that blocks suppression of T-cell production. ChiVax vaccines overcome a key limitation of human adenovirus-based vaccines, whose efficacy can be limited by pre-existing natural immunity against human adenoviruses. Incorporating gD as a BTLA checkpoint blockade into multiple vaccine platforms has consistently shown enhanced T-cell responses. When combined in a single vaccine, ChiVax-gD induces potent, durable and wide-ranging T-cell responses that are more resistant to immune exhaustion and has shown enhanced activity in multiple preclinical cancer and infectious diseases studies.
“We are very excited to be able to move our promising vaccine work to clinical development,” said Ertl. “Our vaccine platform has undergone extensive characterization and pre-clinical testing and is ready for translation into clinical trials to help cure common and devastating diseases, including chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection which include cervical, anal, penile, and head and neck cancers.”
“Immunotherapy is a very dynamic area of treatment with first generation checkpoint inhibitor therapies showing great promise,” said Rudnick, Virion’s chief executive officer. “Our technologies provide an innovative solution for many limitations of these first generation agents, thereby offering potential treatment options for patients living with certain cancers or infectious diseases. Virion brings together a world-class team of experienced biotechnology and pharmaceutical experts to help commercialize this excellent science from Wistar, so we are well equipped to bring novel immune-based treatments to this rapidly expanding market.”
Since its launch in early 2018, Virion has received more than $5 million in Series A funding from U.S. and international Angel investors and family offices that have included Robin Hood Ventures, Mid-Atlantic Bio Angels Group (MABA), Keiretsu Capital Fund III, Life Science Angels, Keiretsu Forum, Alliance of Angels, and Crimson Peak. The capital will back Virion’s efforts for an FDA Investigational New Drug filing for its lead HPV vaccine candidate and pre-clinical work on a vaccine for chronic HBV infection.
The Wistar Institute
The Wistar Institute is an international leader in biomedical research with special expertise in cancer and infectious disease research and vaccine development. Founded in 1892 as the first independent nonprofit biomedical research institute in the United States, Wistar has held the prestigious Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute since 1972. Wistar’s business development team is advancing Wistar science and technology development through creative partnerships. The Institute works actively to ensure that research advances move from the laboratory to the clinic as quickly as possible. wistar.org.
Virion Therapeutics, LLC.
Virion Therapeutics, LLC, is a science driven company developing innovative immune-based treatments for virally associated cancers and chronic viral infections utilizing the first genetic construct checkpoint inhibitor given via vaccination. Our vaccines represent novel and highly effective platforms to induce potent and sustained T cell-mediated immune responses, allowing us to target common diseases with unmet medical needs. Founded in early 2018 to advance technology licensed from The Wistar Institute, a global leader in vaccine science, Virion has built an experienced biotechnology management team, augmented by its advisory board that has extensive domain knowledge in antiviral, vaccine and oncology therapeutic arenas. viriontx.com.