BioVex - 2009 Fierce 15

FierceBiotech 2009 Fierce 15 winner

Based: Woburn, MA
Founded: 2000
CEO: Philip Astley-Sparke (photo)

The Scoop: BioVex was born in the lab of University College London scientist Robert Coffin and later transplanted in Massachusetts, where the biotech soil is richer in venture capital. CEO Philip Astley-Sparke unveiled a $40 million round last April, which will take the company to interim Phase III data next summer on its lead cancer therapy.

What Makes it Fierce: BioVex's lead program for OncoVEX GM-CSF--a cancer-destroying virus modified from a cold sore virus--has dual mechanisms of action. It's designed to replicate in solid tumors, triggering cancer cell death, while spurring the immune system to go in and tackle the cancer as well. Phase III is testing the therapy on patients whose skin cancer has spread to other organs.

A small mid-stage trial produced a 26 percent response rate. Twelve of 13 patients had response rates of more than six months with a handful in remission for three years. And in Phase III "if we see a third of what we saw in Phase II we'll be set for an approval," Astley-Sparke told me last spring.

Enrollment won't be completed in the late-stage trial until the spring of next year, but BioVex says it will be ready to start unveiling data soon after reaching that milestone. BioVex's second program--a prophylactic vaccine for genital herpes called ImmunoVEX HSV2--is slated for a Phase I trial in the UK.

What to Look For: In a deal-obsessed industry, Astley-Sparke has been distinctly cautious about signing on with a partner. But talks are ongoing and he's particularly keen on forging a pact for the genital herpes therapy. The CEO is hot on the trail of another $20 million he'll need to file a BLA and says that a syndicate should be ready within a couple of months. 

Venture backers: Forbion Capital Partners joined with Credit Agricole Private Equity, Harris & Harris Group, Innoven Partners, New Science Ventures, Triathlon Medical Venture Partners and Scottish Equity Partners.

BioVex - 2009 Fierce 15

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