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Novartis and Syncona back new Swiss biotech Anaveon

Founders focused on IL-2 Receptor Agonists

Anaveon

Novartis' venture fund arm and Syncona are supporting new Switzerland-based immuno-oncology specialists Anaveon.

Based in Basel, the centre of Switzerland's pharma and biotech cluster, the company has just raised CHF 35m ($34.9m) in a series A financing round.

Anaveon was founded in December 2017 by two experts in the field of immunotherapy, Onur Boyman, professor and chair in the Department of Immunology at the University of Zurich and a recognised IL-2 biology expert, and Andreas Katopodis, previously director at the Autoimmunity, Transplantation & Inflammation Group at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research.

Anaveon was founded with initial seed capital from the UZH Life Sciences Fund which will convert in the Series A financing and additional funding from BaseLaunch, a healthcare accelerator operated by BaselArea.swiss.

The funds will be used to advance Anaveon’s core ambition, which lies in the development of selective Interleukin 2 (IL-2) Receptor Agonists, a type of protein that could therapeutically enhance a patient’s immune system to respond to tumours.

Novartis’ Proleukin is a human-IL-2 based medicine that’s already approved in the US and EU for the treatment of metastatic melanoma and renal cancer, but despite its success, the treatment is associated with an array of severe side effects.

These side effects often lead to patients limiting their doses. Alongside this the drug is plagued with a short half-life that requires frequent infusions.

However, Anaveon says its product is specifically designed to address the challenges associated with human IL-2, and if approved, the drug could potentially benefit a wide range of oncology treatments, including combination with cell therapies, vaccines, checkpoint inhibitors and radiotherapy.

The compounds in Anaveon’s product act as adjuvants to increase anti-tumour immune responses - and the method could prove to be quite effective. The company said the product has shown efficacy in pre-clinical trials in a variety of tumour models, either as a monotherapy or in combination with other agents.

Andreas Katopodis, co-founder and chief executive of Anaveon, said: “Based on the pioneering work of Onur Boyman, who [founded the company back in 2017 and] was the first to demonstrate re-direction of IL-2 activity in vivo, Anaveon has developed biologic approaches for the highly selective expansion of anti-tumour immune cells.”

Andreas Katopodis

Andreas Katopodis

The company has also added a few new faces to its board of directors, including Florian Muellershausen from Novartis Venture Fund, which backed the series A financing round.

The funding was led by Syncona, with Novartis Venture Fund also contributing. Syncona is the venture funding group driving a lot of gene therapy and immuno-oncology start-ups, especially in the UK. These include Freeline, which last year raised £88m to accelerate haemophilia gene therapy, and Gyroscope, which earlier this month dosed its first patient with its gene therapy for dry AMD, and Autolus, which raised $150m in its IPO last June.

Martin Murphy, chief executive of Syncona Investment Management Limited, said: “Our commitment to Anaveon is a great example of our strategy to seek to build truly innovative companies anchored by exceptional science and experienced teams.

“Anaveon has a strong strategic fit across Syncona’s cell therapy portfolio and we are excited by the potential to develop a best-in-class product in the IL2 space. The Syncona team will work in close partnership with the company’s world-leading founders to develop its business plan and clinical pathway.”

Article by
Gemma Jones

26th February 2019

From: Sales

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