Authored by Karl Simpson
Geneva’s biotech cluster has been somewhat tumultuous in recent years . Firstly, Merck Serono decided to close its site in Geneva at a cost of many hundreds of jobs. This was Shire’s gain as they decided Nyon would be a good location for their offices and eagerly started recruiting many people across their rare diseases business unit. Now it seems Zug in Switzerland is Shire’s next destination of choice, as they strive for the new one-Shire strategy. Neighbouring them in the Geneva cluster we have seen operational presence being created by rare disease companies Alexion, Ariad and also Vertex Pharmaceuticals.
However, the slightly less renowned biotech nestled in the shadows of the Geneva mountains which has been getting on with its business is Novimmune, a company founded as far back as 1998. The company raised its first round of seed capital in 2000 from Lomard Odier Venture Fund and other angels. The company has just closed a Series B round of financing with an added CHF 60 million, a round led by London venture capital company Rosetta Capital who led the round. This latest round sees Novimmune continue its evolution as an operational biotech company with a range of drugs in development targeting a diseases of the immune system. Developing moncloncal antibody therapeutics, NovImmune currently has 9 assets sitting in its pipeline, with diseases such as Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), Crohn’s disease, renal allograft transplantation and acute lymphocytic leukemia.
In addition to this pipeline of development assets, Novimmune has developed several proprietary technology platforms for the generation of fully human mono-, bi- and panspecific antibodies.
Novimmune masters three different monoclonal antibody technologies in-house — DiversityTrap, UltiMAb, and Humanization. The proprietary DiversityTrap platform generates large libraries of human antibodies with diversity concentrated at the center of the antigen interaction surface.
With its Kappa-Lambda body, Novimmune has also generated unmodified, fully-human IgGs with bi-specific antigen binding regions. These antibodies allow for dual inhibition, increased specificity, and offer manufacturing and stability characteristics identical to standard monoclonal antibodies. This platform is being applied to NI-1701 which is designed to inhibit CD47 expression by cancer tumours and creates a powerful means to fight cancer by luring the immune system to seek and destroy tumor cells using antibody mediated immunotherapy.
The latest financing will see Dr. Jonathan Hepple join the board, he is a co-founder of Rosetta Capital. Dr. Hepple has participated in other companies with bi-specific approach, such as Covagen who themselves recently raised 44.9m CHF, as well as sitting on the board of orphan drug company Opsona Therapeutics.
With its recent capital injection and a fluid talent pool in the Geneva area experienced in orphan drugs and antibodies, NovImmune is well placed to continue the maturation of its pipeline to bring new therapies to the market.
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