PsiOxus bags $39M from Woodford, GSK for checkpoint inhibitor combo trial

Neil Woodford

Neil Woodford's new $1.2 billion fund and GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) VC unit have contributed to a $39 million Series C round in PsiOxus Therapeutics. The cash will allow PsiOxus to test its oncolytic virus together with a checkpoint inhibitor, a combination it thinks can make the immuno-oncology treatment effective against otherwise resistant targets.

Oxford, United Kingdom-based PsiOxus struck upon the idea after gathering data from another Phase I trial. The study showed an intravenous infusion of PsiOxus' lead product--the oncolytic virus enadenotucirev--selectively infects tumor cells. Once the tumor is infected, T cells are able to invade. PsiOxus now plans to investigate whether this makes the combination of its oncolytic virus and an immune-checkpoint inhibitor an effective treatment in the clinic, starting with a Phase I trial in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.

Existing investors Imperial Innovations, Invesco, GSK's VC unit SR One, Lundbeckfond Ventures and Mercia Technologies see enough potential in the approach to back the Series C round, as does Neil Woodford. Imperial Innovations led the round with a $11 million contribution--keeping its stake in the business at 28.3%--while Woodford opened his well-worn checkbook to make an undisclosed investment. The round brings the total invested in PsiOxus to date up to more than $85 million, a sum that has put it in a position to start advancing a candidate from its AbEnAd platform.

AbEnAd is central to PsiOxus' planned pipeline of follow-on oncolytic assets. The company intends to use the platform to tweak the genetics of the enadenotucirev virus, giving it the ability to convert cancer cells into antibody production factories. The concept enabled the production of anti-PDL1 and anti-CTLA4 antibodies in the lab, but PsiOxus has bigger plans for the technology. With tests suggesting each virus can be coded for up to three different therapeutics--including proteins, peptides and RNAi--PsiOxus envisages creating single-dose combination treatments.

The ambitious plan has yet to face rigorous clinical tests, but PsiOxus now has the cash to start advancing the program. Some of the Series C money will go toward moving an internal candidate through the R&D process. At the same time, PsiOxus is looking for partners to help finance other applications.

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