Aelix Therapeutics, a drug development company specialized in the discovery and development of immunotherapies against HIV infection, announced today that it has completed a Series A funding round of € 11.5 M ($ 12.7 M). Ysios Capital, a Spanish investment fund, led the round. The fundraising was also supported by a syndicate of new investors including Johnson and Johnson Innovation – JJDC Inc., and Caixa Capital Risc, the venture capital division of “la Caixa”, the leading financial group in Spain.
With this fundraising, the company welcomes four new board members: Dr Karen Wagner from Ysios Capital, José Antonio Mesa from Caixa Capital Risc, Jordi Naval, co-founder of the company, along with a representative of JJDC.
The proceeds will support the development of the HTI immunogen as a therapeutic vaccine against HIV infection, up to the completion of a Phase 2 proof-of-concept efficacy trial in HIV-infected individuals. Clinical trials are expected to start by mid 2016. The HTI immunogen has the potential to become the first immunotherapy to produce a ”functional cure” of HIV infection by eliciting an effective T-Cell immune response to the virus in vaccinated individuals. It is estimated that more than 36.7 M people in the world are HIV-positive, with 2 M new cases every year.
“We are delighted to have closed such an important equity round. The investment syndicate includes complementary parties, and especially corporate investors from pharmaceutical companies with expertise in virology and the development of vaccines. Also, we look forward to working with the research community to test this concept”, said Dr Christian Brander, ICREA Investigator at Irsicaixa and Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder of Aelix-Therapeutics.
“We believe that Aelix’s innovative approach based on a disruptive design of a T-cell immunogen able to elicit a strong, broad and focused response against HIV has the potential to radically transform the treatment of HIV infection, still one of the largest health problems in the world”, said Karen Wagner from Ysios Capital. “We were impressed by the science and the preclinical data supporting the HTI immunogen, and we believe that we indeed may change the future of how HIV infection is treated and help improve the health of millions of people globally.”
Jordi Naval, co-founder of Aelix Therapeutics and Board Director, added “We are very proud that the quality of Drs Brander, Clotet, Gatell and HIVACAT’s scientific work for more than 20 years and the progress made to date has attracted such a high caliber investor group. We look forward to working with them to build the company further and make Aelix a powerhouse for HIV therapeutics”.
José Antonio Mesa, from Caixa Capital Risc confirmed: “HIV is still a high-unmet medical need, even in the Western world, and achieving a functional cure would allow people living with HIV to discontinue anti-retroviral therapy and thereby ease the overall treatment and system burden, as well as reduce the social stigma associated with daily medication. We are proud to continue the work done for years by Obra Social” la Caixa “, turning IrsiCaixa into a pioneering center where highly innovative projects as Aelix are developed.”
About the HTI immunogen
The HTI immunogen (HIVACAT T-cell Immunogen), constitutes a completely new approach on T-cell immunogen design. Starting from data of more than 1,000 HIV-infected subjects in four continents, we identified those T-cell targets against which the patients with lower viral load mounted a protective response. We then designed a polypeptide sequence covering those T-cell targets (16 segments spanning certain sequences of the HIV genes gag, pol, vif and nef), and integrated this sequence in DNA and Modified Ankara Virus (MVA) vectors. Our preclinical data show excellent breadth, strength and focus of the elicited response after prime-boost regimens in animal models, and an independent analysis in human samples shows strong correlation between the presence of T-cell responses against the regions in HTI and their ability to limit the growth of HIV in vitro and in vivo.
HTI can be also the backbone for new preventive vaccine designs against HIV and it is included in such combination approaches in ongoing work in the HIVACAT program.
About Aelix Therapeutics
Aelix Therapeutics is a spin-off of HIVACAT, the Catalan project for the development of effective vaccines against HIV. The company was created under the leadership of the founders Drs Christian Brander, Bonaventura Clotet, Josep Maria Gatell and Mr Jordi Naval, all of whom have several decades of research and experience in HIV and biotech development. The company’s know-how will further expand through unique immunogen designs and ready access to large cohorts of HIV infected patients in several continents through its partnership with the HIVACAT consortium.