Immvira Group Company announced this week the completion of series B financing for $58 million. The biotechnology startup focuses on the development of new generation oncolytic viruses as potential cancer therapeutics.
Immvirva attracted a number of biotech investors. This round of financing was led by Huagai Capital, with participation by Apricot Capital, Cowin Capital.
The funds will support the preclinical and clinical development of existing product pipelines, the discovery of new candidate in its early stage, and the potential strategic collaboration with domestic and global partners.
Earlier this year, Immvira achieved a major milestone by receiving U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) IND clearance of its first product T3011 (intratumoral injection). T3011 is the first oncolytic virus therapy to conduct human study in U.S. from mainland China, and the first to carry out multiple-regional clinical trials in U.S., Australia and mainland China.
Immvira has four additional products in its pipeline covering multiple indications, including lung cancer and liver cancer (T3011-systemic administration), malignant brain tumors (C5252), virus resistant solid tumors and hematological malignancies. All are expected to enter the clinical stage in the near future.
“The completion of this round of financing marks an important milestone for Immvira Group Company from preclinical stage entering into clinical development stage,” said Dr. Grace Zhou，Chairman of BOD and CEO of Immvira Group Company. “In the year of 2020, under such special circumstances around the globe, Immvira Group Company however is still embraced by so many investors with strong and enthusiastic support, we have no reasons to slow down! On the contrary, the company will make every effort to continue to uphold our corporate spirit of ‘Highly professional and highly focused’：not only push towards our goals at full speed, but must also watch ourselves conscientiously in each step of the development process.”
Oncolytic Virus Therapy
Some viruses tend to infect and kill tumor cells. Known as oncolytic viruses, this group includes viruses found in nature as well as viruses modified in the laboratory to reproduce efficiently in cancer cells without harming healthy cells.
To date, only one oncolytic virus — a genetically modified form of a herpesvirus for treating melanoma — has been approved by the FDA, though a number of viruses are being evaluated as potential treatments for cancer in clinical trials.
Oncolytic viruses have long been viewed as tools for directly killing cancer cells. But a growing body of research suggests that some oncolytic viruses may work – at least in part – by triggering an immune response in the body against the cancer.
When a virus infects a tumor cell, the virus makes copies of itself until the cell bursts. The dying cancer cell releases materials, such as tumor antigens, that allow the cancer to be recognized, or “seen,” by the immune system.
“Oncolytic viruses are alerting the immune system that something’s wrong,” said Jason Chesney, M.D., Ph.D., director of the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center. This can lead to an immune response against nearby tumor cells (a local response) or tumor cells in other parts of the body (a systemic response).
For this reason, some researchers consider oncolytic viruses to be a form of immunotherapy – a treatment that harnesses the immune system against cancer. But many in the field would agree that more studies are needed to learn how different oncolytic viruses work against cancer.
Cover image: Illustration of the oncolytic virus therapy T-VEC (green circles with red centers) and pembrolizumab (green form top center) interacting with a tumor (orange) and immune cells (purple circles with + symbols). Credit: UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center