Some top life sciences investors have backed France-based vaccine developer Genticel in an €18.2 million round of venture financing. The company plans to spend the capital on advancing a pipeline of vaccines, including a Phase II trial for a candidate called ProCervix for patients with high-risk cases of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
Wellington Partners, headquartered in Munich, spearheaded Genticel's new venture round, which included all previous backers IDInvest Partners, Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners, InnoBio fund, IRDI and Amundi Private Equity Funds, according to the biotech company. In tough times for raising venture funds, the veteran VC firms Wellington and Edmond de Rothschild revealed closings of life sciences-focused funds in 2012 of $91.3 million and $153 million, respectively, last year.
"The commitment from Wellington Partners, one of the most reputable life science investors in Europe, is further endorsement of Genticel's therapeutic HPV vaccine development," said Benedikt Timmerman, founder and CEO of Genticel, in a statement. "The Wellington life science team members are bringing outstanding clinical development and medical expertise to our shareholder base, both from therapeutic vaccines and from cervical cancer screening.
Genticel aims to fill a glaring gap in the blockbuster market for HPV vaccines. Its lead vaccine, ProCervix, aims to treat women infected with HPV types 16 and 18, which put them at high risk of developing cervical cancer, before tumors develop. Rather than preventing infection like Merck's ($MRK) big-selling HPV vaccine Gardasil, ProCervix is intended to wipe out cells infected with HPV 16 and 18.
"There are more than 90 million women in the world infected with HPV 16 and/or HPV 18 types who could benefit from this treatment," Dr. Rainer Strohmenger, general partner at Wellington Partners, said, "making this market a clear blockbuster opportunity."
For all the talk about the death of the blockbuster model, make no mistake: Pharma giants are racing to develop many more billion-dollar sellers. Succeeding is the hard part, of course.
- here's the release