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BioNTech raises €290m for mRNA cancer vaccine platform

Funds will help lead melanoma candidate progress

BioNTech

Germany’s BioNTech has raised a whopping €290m ($325m) in a second-round financing round that is one of the biggest ever completed by a European biotech company.

The Mainz-based company – which specialises in drugs and vaccines based on messenger RNA (mRNA) and already has a string of big pharma partners including Pfizer, Sanofi, Roche, Eli Lilly and Bayer – says it will use a chunk of the proceeds to push its lead melanoma candidate through clinical development.

The bumper Series B comes 18 months after BioNTech raised $275m in first-round financing, and takes the total funding raised by the biotech to around $1.4bn. Just a few weeks ago there were reports that it was planning an initial public offering on the US Nasdaq.

BioNTech was the first biotech to bring an mRNA-based individualised cancer vaccine targeting neoantigens into clinical trials. It currently has seven products in clinical testing, and will need deep pockets to advance a broad pipeline that along with mRNA immunotherapies also includes antibody and bispecific antibody drugs as well as early-stage CAR-T and small-molecule programmes.

Ugur Sahin

BioNTech's chief exec Ugur Sahin

“This financing round is a significant milestone that recognises our scientific and initial clinical track record to date," commented Prof. Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech.

"With our ongoing focus on bringing together transformative technologies, it is exciting to have the support from high-technology investors who see the accelerating convergence of biology with bioinformatics, robotics and artificial intelligence as an opportunity to develop more precise, efficacious and cost-effective individualised immunotherapies.”

Some of the proceeds of the second round will also go towards bolstering its manufacturing capabilities, according to the company, which has also been adding to its capabilities and pipeline with a series of bolt-on deals and recently set up a new R&D facility in the US.

In May, it acquired the antibody assets of US biotech MabVax Therapeutics, headed by an anti-SLea drug called MVT-5873 which is in a phase 1 trial for pancreatic cancer. That followed a January deal to add a monoclonal antibody platform developed by fellow German biotech MAB Discovery, and a collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania on mRNA vaccines for infectious diseases.

There has been a busy few months on the pipeline front too. A phase 2 trial has been started with lead candidate RO7198457 for advanced melanoma, partnered with Roche’s Genentech unit, as a combination therapy with Merck & Co/MSD’s PD-1 inhibitor Keytruda (pembrolizumab).

A second phase 2 trial of the drug is also underway both as a monotherapy and alongside Roche’s PD-L1 inhibitor Tecentriq (atezolizumab) in a range of solid tumours. BioNTech also has a phase 1 trial on the go for a Sanofi-partnered cancer immunotherapy - SAR441000 – on its own and with Sanofi’s PD-1 drug Libtayo (cemiplimab).

Last month, BioNTech and partner Genmab started a first phase 1/2a trial of a bispecific antibody targeting PD-L1 and 4-1BB – designed to remove a brake on immune responses to solid tumours whilst simultaneously revving up T cell attacks on malignant cells.

Following behind are three in-house mRNA vaccines based on the German biotech’s FixVAC platform for melanoma, human papillomavirus (HPV) driven head and neck cancer, and triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) in phase 1.

The latest fundraising was led by Fidelity Management & Research, with participation from Redmile, Invus, MiraeAsset Financial, Platinum Asset Management, Jebsen Capital, Steam Athena Capital, BVCF Management and the Struengmann Family Office.

BioNTech's success coincides with some major fundraising from other European biotechs. Lausanne, Switzerland-based ADC Therapeutics yesterday added an extra $103m to its fundraising, bringing it total Series E financing round to $303m. Meanwhile, Denmark's Genmab is gearing up for an IPO in the US next week, in which it is expected to raise $503m, which will consolidate its status as one of Europe's leading biotech companies.

Article by
Phil Taylor

10th July 2019

From: Marketing

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