Boehringer powers cancer vaccine startup Amal to B round

Swiss flag by a lake
Amal's vaccine is designed to encourage immune cells to infiltrate tumors and render them susceptible to attack. (Andrew Bossi/CC BY-SA 2.5)

Amal Therapeutics has added €21.2 million ($24 million) to its series B round. Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund co-led the financing to tee Amal up to take lead colorectal cancer vaccine ATP128 into the clinic next year.

Switzerland’s Amal spun out of the University of Geneva in 2012 to advance technology with the potential to address limitations that held back earlier generations of cancer vaccines. The technology is based on a chimeric protein made up of three functional parts, including a cell penetrating peptide Amal thinks will promote the efficient cross presentation of epitopes to cytotoxic T cells.

The potential of the technology has enabled Amal to raise a series of larger and larger rounds from some well-known investors. Boehringer, which has been on board since the 2014 seed round, co-led the latest financing with BioMedPartners and Helsinn Investment Fund.

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With VI Partners, Schroder Adveq and High-Tech Gründerfonds also participating, Amal was able to raise €21.2 million from the same syndicate of investors that powered it to the €8 million first close of the series B round last year. 

The second tranche of series B cash will fund an important moment in Amal’s history. Next summer, Amal is set to move its lead candidate into a clinical trial. The start is later than once expected—Amal targeted an early 2018 date at the time of its 2016 series A round—but the colorectal cancer field still needs a product with the claimed characteristics of the company’s vaccines.

Amal is yet to share many details about ATP128, the colorectal cancer vaccine that replaced ATP124 as its lead candidate between the series A and B rounds. The target is said to be well suited to Amal’s self-adjuvanting platform, creating the possibility that the vaccine will be able to encourage immune cells to infiltrate tumors and render them susceptible to attack.

While the details of exactly how ATP128 will achieve this goal remain private, Amal has talked more broadly about its self-adjuvanting platform. The effect is achieved by one of the other three functional parts of the chimeric protein. Amal thinks incorporating this part, a toll-like receptor peptide agonist, into ATP128 will yield better results than mixing an adjuvant with the vaccine. 

ATP128 is the first fruit of Amal’s Kisima platform. Amal thinks the platform’s combination of elements to encourage cell penetration and an adjuvant has broad applicability and will use some of the series B money to further develop the technology.