Imvax raises $112M to advance brain cancer cell therapy

John Furey headshot
Imvax CEO John Furey (Imvax)

Imvax has raised $112 million to take its autologous tumor cell vaccine into a phase 2 glioblastoma multiforme trial. The series C follows phase 1b data on the brain cancer treatment that persuaded existing investors including HP WILD Holding and Ziff Capital Partners to commit more cash.

Philadelphia-based Imvax raised $40 million across series A and B rounds in 2017 and 2019. Between the two rounds, Imvax presented interim phase 1b data linking its vaccine, IGV-001, to better overall survival than a historical control based on standard of care. Along the way, Imvax named John Furey, the former chief operating officer of Spark Therapeutics, as its CEO.

Now, Furey has overseen the raising of a series C round that will equip Imvax to execute the next stage of its strategy. HP WILD led the round with assists from fellow existing investors Ziff, Magnetar Capital and TLP Investment Partners, plus one new face, Invus.

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Imvax will use the money to start a phase 2 trial in glioblastoma multiforme patients early next year. The rest of the money will support the broadening of Imvax’s R&D activities, including work toward planned 2021 trials in additional solid tumors and the expansion of its manufacturing capabilities.

IGV-001 is heading into phase 2 on the back of a phase 1b trial that wrapped up in May. Imvax is yet to share data from the study publicly, but has said the final results confirm the benefit seen at the interim readout. Furey expanded on that statement somewhat, explaining the trial linked the vaccine to significant improvements in survival without causing off-target effects or cytokine storm issues. 

Imvax produces the vaccine by sampling cancer cells during the surgical removal of a patient’s brain tumor. After treating the cancer cells with an antisense oligodeoxynucleotide against IGF-R1, Imvax adds them to a delivery device that sits under the skin. The approach is intended to cause the cancer cells to release antigens that help turn the immune system against the post-surgery remnants of the brain tumor. 

The approach is theoretically applicable to other solid tumors. Imvax is evaluating that possibility in preclinical assessments of formulations for neoadjuvant treatment of cancers beyond glioblastoma multiforme. 

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