French biotech Osivax nabs funding boost for universal flu, coronavirus vaccine work

Little Lyon biotech Osivax has grabbed €30 million ($33.8 million) for its universal coronavirus and influenza inoculations.

Almost exactly one year ago to the day, Osivax raised an initial €8 million ($9 million) to take a universal flu vaccine candidate through early-phase development. Lyon, France-based Osivax spun out of Imaxio in 2017 to use what it calls the oligoDOM tech platform.

Osivax, like other universal flu vaccine developers, is striving to equip the immune system to recognize and target a conserved part of the influenza virus rather than the rapidly evolving surface antigens at the center of existing prophylactic shots.

To do so, Osivax has paired a recombinant form of a conserved nucleoprotein with a platform that uses viruslike particles and positively charged tails. By targeting the nucleoprotein, a highly conserved antigen with a low mutation rate found in every flu variation, oligoDOM has the potential to provide lasting immunity regardless of virus mutation.

While initially focusing on flu, the company has now added a new target: coronavirus, both the family of viruses and, specifically, SARS-CoV-2, which is currently causing the COVID-19 pandemic. Osivax is deploying the same approach as it is with flu toward a universal coronavirus vaccine to protect against SARS-CoV-2 as well as future coronavirus strains.

The new funding breaks down like this: The European Innovation Council (EIC) has selected Osivax to receive up to €17.5 million in “blended financing” with grant and equity support. Specifically, Osivax gets a €2.5 million accelerator grant from the EIC, which will support the finishing off for its phase 2a immunogenicity clinical trial for OVX836, its lead universal flu vaccine candidate, as well as the early discovery phase for its universal coronavirus vaccine program.

The EIC also selected Osivax for support of up to €15 million in equity toward its ongoing series B fundraising, intended to finance a large-scale OVX836 phase 2b proof of efficacy study in 3,500 subjects and support further development of its universal coronavirus vaccine.

And that’s not all: Bpifrance has thrown in just over €15 million as part of a Projets Structurants Pour la Compétitivité COVID-19 grant, also designed to to help Osivax’s coronavirus work.

Alexandre Le Verte, CEO and co-founder of Osivax, said: “Osivax is founded on a ground-breaking technology capable of producing a universal flu vaccine that delivers long-term protection despite naturally-occurring mutations. Our commitment to cutting time and costs associated with vaccine production while providing comprehensive protection has never been more critical than in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic which continues to profoundly threaten global health.

 “Similar to influenza, which leads to regular global outbreaks, COVID-19 has the potential to mutate. The ability to protect people from the current and future coronavirus strains is a tremendous opportunity for us and we are particularly thankful for this funding and the validation that it provides our science and technology moving forward.”