Themis raises €40M to run phase 3 chikungunya vaccine trial

Themis CEO Erich Tauber (Themis)

Themis has raised €40 million ($44 million). The Merck-backed series D positions Themis to take its chikungunya vaccine through a phase 3 trial and move the lead candidate from its immuno-oncology R&D program into humans.

Austria’s Themis filed to raise €40 million through an IPO in Amsterdam last year only to hit pause on the plan in the face of “adverse market conditions.” The u-turn left Themis without the vast majority of the €30 million it planned to set aside for the phase 3 chikungunya vaccine trial, forcing it to look into “all strategic options” to fund further development.

Last month, Merck’s investment in Themis as part of a $200 million vaccine R&D deal made it clear that the biotech was lining up a private financing round. Now, Themis has shared further details of the round.

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Themis has raised €40 million in a series D round co-led by new backers Farallon Capital and Hadean Ventures, which are respectively based in the U.S. and Scandinavia. Merck and Adjuvant Capital, both of which are U.S.-based, also invested in Themis for the first time, resulting in the biotech bringing in significant funding from North America.  

“We definitely wanted to broaden our investor base and increase our financial flexibility. It was a deliberate decision to look for U.S. investors,” Themis CEO Erich Tauber said. 

Existing members of the biotech’s syndicate such as Global Health Investment Fund, which led a €10 million series C at the start of last year, also participated, giving Themis €40 million to run a phase 3 chikungunya trial while advancing multiple other programs. Themis already has vaccines against Zika and Lassa fever in the clinic and has other infectious disease candidates in preclinical testing.

The chikungunya phase 3 is due to start in the coming months, enroll thousands of participants and deliver data around the middle of next year. Themis is considering taking the vaccine to market itself.  

“It’s definitely a possibility to market a product like chikungunya as a small company. Another model is to partner this globally or regionally. We are working on all three tracks right now,” Tauber said. 

Themis is also applying its measles technology to oncology, adding immune modulators and other agents to augment the natural oncolytic activity of the virus. The oncology R&D program started last year and, by leveraging the same manufacturing platform as the infectious disease pipeline, Themis has moved forward quickly. Two oncology drugs are due to enter the clinic by the end of next year. 

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