Meissa raises $30M to take RSV vaccine into the clinic

Meissa Vaccines has raised $30 million to advance a pipeline of vaccines to prevent viral respiratory infections. The series A equips Meissa to run phase 1 and 2 trials of a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine while moving other candidates based on its synthetic biology technology toward the clinic. 

Working out of Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS incubator in South San Francisco, Meissa has used grants and a $3.4 million seed round to build on Emory University research. The Emory group used reverse genetics—a different way to link a gene to a phenotype—and synthetic biology to rationally design a RSV vaccine that showed promise in rats and mice. The research suggested the technologies can lead to live vaccines that are attenuated in human airway cells but still protect against the target virus. 

Morningside Ventures has bought into that idea. Today, Meissa revealed it has closed a $30 million series A round with the VC group. Morningside lists BioVex, which Amgen bought for $425 million upfront, among its successes. 

The series A will position Meissa to start finding out whether it can join the list of Morningside’s best bets. Meissa is poised to file an IND to run a phase 1 trial of the RSV vaccine, called MV-012-968, in the fourth quarter, setting it up to test the candidate’s safety and immunogenicity in adults. 

“We expect that the readout of the phase 1 trial will be in the first half of 2020. Those results will inform our next steps and timelines for subsequent trials of our RSV vaccine candidate in adults and infants,” Meissa CEO Martin Moore said.

Meissa is hiring to support the work. Today, Meissa has three full-time employees and about 10 key consultants. Using the series A funds, Meissa plans to hire six to 10 full-time employees and take on around the same number of consultants. 

Some of the hires will give Meissa the clinical operations and manufacturing experience it will need as the RSV candidates advances. Others, notably the virologists Meissa plans to take on, will support its efforts to discover new vaccines using its genetic engineering technology.