Vaxxas banks $20M for its needle-free injection platform

Vaxxas' nanopatch needle-free delivery system--Courtesy of Vaxxas

Biotech upstart Vaxxas raised $20 million in the first close of its B round, cash that'll help the biotech develop a needle-free technology for vaccinations.

The device, called Nanopatch, is made of thousands of vaccine-coated microneedles that painlessly enter the outer layers of skin. From there they deliver their payload to the immune cell-rich tissues under the skin, provoking an immune response with as little as 1% of the dose required in traditional vaccination, Vaxxas said. So far, in preclinical studies on mice, the method has charted impressive efficacy with little or no need for an adjuvant, according to the company.

Vaxxas, founded in 2011, is now embarking on a two-pronged growth strategy, meeting with potential partners who want to use Nanopatch with their vaccine candidates while getting to work on building a pipeline of its own.

Vaxxas CEO David Hoey

"We have seen tremendous opportunities to create our own proprietary pipeline of Nanopatch-based vaccine products as well as those with partners," CEO David Hoey said in a statement. "This funding creates an important inflection point for Vaxxas, as we are now poised to create significantly increased value through our first clinical studies."

On the proprietary side, Vaxxas has earmarked much of its $20 million raise to pay for development efforts at its Australian R&D outpost, planning to get a handful of new vaccines into the clinic. The plan is to apply Nanopatch's promise to ailments including influenza, polio, bacterial infection and cancer, the company said.

As for partnering, Vaxxas has been working with Merck ($MRK) on some undisclosed Nanopatch-powered vaccines, and the company is using its Cambridge, MA, branch to spread the word and solicit similar deals.

The latest funding round, led by OneVentures, brings Vaxxas' total venture haul to $33 million.