Osivax has raised €8 million ($9 million) to take a universal flu vaccine candidate through early-phase development. The series A round comes as Osivax nears the delivery of phase 1 data on a candidate that achieved widespread protection in mice and ferrets.
Lyon, France-based Osivax spun out of Imaxio in 2017 to advance the flu vaccine and the underlying oligoDOM technology 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.
"OligoDOM really combines these two well-established approaches to not only increase the immune response generally but also to focus this increase on CD8 T cell responses," Alexandre Le Vert, the executive chairman and co-founder of Osivax, said.
The potential of that concept has enabled Osivax to secure investment. Noshaq, previously known as Meusinvest, led the round with the support of Anaxago, a company that enables individuals to invest in early-stage startups.
Noshaq and Anaxago came on board after getting a look at the preclinical results that encouraged Osivax to move the vaccine into phase 1. Studies showed the vaccine protects most mice from lethal influenza challenges, regardless of the virus strain used. Osivax subsequently ran tests in ferrets, a better analog to humans for influenza studies, and emerged with data confirming the impression that the vaccine provides widespread protection.
Initial safety and immunogenicity data from a 72-subject phase 1 are due before the end of the year, beyond which Osivax plans to run a phase 2 study. The series A will support the clinical progress of the vaccine while also enabling Osivax to strengthen its preclinical package.
If the vaccine demonstrates safety and efficacy, Osivax thinks the shot has the properties needed to disrupt the flu vaccine market, notably with regard to the non-egg-based production process used to make the non-adjuvanted recombinant protein.
"It's very credible from a production and quality perspective,” Le Vert said. “As we are not in a rare disease, the question of are you going to be able to produce enough doses at an affordable cost is extremely important. We've always worked and designed our vaccine to address this question.”