Ex-uniQure chief Aldag takes helm at vaccine upstart Hookipa


“I enjoy building companies,” notes Jörn Aldag in the lead to his profile note on LinkedIn. And now he’s getting a shot at a new challenge.

This morning the former CEO at uniQure ($QURE) was named CEO at Hookipa Biotech, a Vienna-based startup that used its announcement to make some broad hints about its future by pointing to Aldag’s earlier roles in pushing his companies to the public markets. 

Aldag “obtained approximately $200 million through its NASDAQ-listing and follow-on, and closed a multi-billion dollar collaboration in cardiovascular gene therapy,” Hookipa reported. Clearly, the company would like to see some of that action repeated after Aldag arrives at the helm.

Aldag stepped down from the top post at uniQure at the end of last year after making a mark with the first gene therapy approval in Europe. Unfortunately for uniQure, though, the therapy isn’t ready for U.S. approval and it’s rarely used in Europe. Spark Therapeutics ($ONCE), meanwhile, has been making progress with a rival hemophilia B gene therapy that has significantly outperformed uniQure’s program.

Hookipa has raised about $30 million so far from a syndicate that includes Sofinnova Partners (partner Graziano Seghezzi seeded the company), Forbion Capital Partners, Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund, Takeda Ventures and BioMedPartners. It’s been developing a platform for both therapeutic and prophylactic vaccines for stirring up B and T-cell immune responses.

That kind of platform also puts the company in the hot immunotherapy field, which is becoming increasingly crowded with new entries.

Their lead program, HB-101, is targeted against Cytomegalovirus and is slated to begin a Phase I later this year.