SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 15 Vaxart Inc., a biotechnologycompany focused on the development of oral vaccines, today announcedcompletion of a Series A financing. Quantum Technology Partners and LifeScience Angels led the round. Other investors include Bay Partners and SandHill Angels.
In total, Vaxart has secured $3.3 million in new funding. The financingraised $2.7 million. In addition, Vaxart announced that it was awarded (underits former name of West Coast Biologicals) a National Institutes of HealthSBIR grant of $600,000 for development of the company's platform technology.Vaxart will use the new capital to support late-stage preclinical testing andIND preparation for its first product, a vaccine for avian flu.
"The current round of funding will allow us to advance our avian fluprogram, which we see as a critical proof of concept for our technology," saidMark Backer, PhD, Vaxart's CEO. "But this is just the launching pad for whatwe believe is a broadly applicable oral delivery platform to address manytypes of infectious disease."
Breakthrough Modular Strategy
Vaxart has developed a proprietary, modular approach to vaccine creationthat, the company believes, will enable it to produce a portfolio of productsmuch more efficiently than has been previously possible.
Key to Vaxart's efforts is a unique adjuvant, the vaccine component thatenhances immune response to a foreign protein. Vaxart uses an adjuvant thatworks through a "toll-like receptor" (TLR). TLRs have been widely applied invaccines and are well accepted as effective immune stimulators. Vaxart'sapproach differs in that it employs TLR-3, the only TLR known to be fullyactive in the gastrointestinal tract. This means that Vaxart's vaccines canstimulate a potent immune response when given orally, in contrast to otherTLR-based vaccines -- and most vaccines in general -- which must be injected.
Another breakthrough feature is the ability to employ the same vector, ordelivery vehicle, across all vaccines. Usually, each vaccine requires adifferent vehicle, because antibodies build up against the vector proteinsafter initial exposure. Subsequent vaccines become less effective, as the bodyattacks the drug molecule before a response can be mounted against the diseasetarget. Vaxart has overcome this obstacle and has demonstrated that strongimmune responses can be generated against multiple diseases following a seriesof different oral vaccines.
This potential to "reuse" a vector opens the door to the company's modulardrug design, in which the core components of the vaccine remain the same andonly the antigen changes. Using such a strategy, Vaxart will be able toproduce new vaccines through a standardized and low-cost process, while at thesame time reducing regulatory risk because data from one vaccine will helpestablish the safety of others created through the platform.
"There are obvious clinical advantages to Vaxart's approach, in that oralvaccines are preferable to injectables for essentially all indications," saidSean Tucker, PhD, vice president of research and principal investigator of theSBIR grant. "But there are numerous technical advantages as well. Inparticular, the ability to use the same vector across multiple vaccines is amajor advance that greatly speeds up product development and differentiatesVaxart from other companies in this field."
Vaxart's initial efforts have focused on new vaccines for pandemicillnesses, as a way to quickly test the company's platform while addressingimportant threats to public health. Moving forward, Vaxart intends to developnext-generation, oral alternatives to existing vaccines with proven marketpotential. Given the efficiency of its modular strategy, Vaxart believes suchcandidates could enter clinical testing within 18 months of program inception.
"Vaxart has clear ad