TVAX pours $2M funding round into canine osteosarcoma drug

In late March, TVAX Animal Health, a subsidiary of Kansas-based TVAX Biomedical, raised $2 million in funding, bringing its total financing haul to $12 million. Now TVAX is adapting its parent company's immunotherapy approach for treating osteosarcoma in dogs.

TVAX's platform involves vaccinating patients with their own cancer cells, as well as with cancer-killing immune cells known as T cells, which are harvested from their blood. TVAX has tested the procedure in people with glioblastoma and kidney cancer. The company is currently preparing for Phase III clinical trials, according to its website.

Tammie Wahaus, CEO of TVAX Animal Health

Tammie Wahaus, CEO of TVAX Animal Health, tells the Kansas City Business Journal that USDA has cleared the dog version of the product for marketing and the company expects to make it available to veterinarians later this year. "The initial focus will be on the veterinary oncology segment, which is potentially a $1-billion-a-year (industry) in U.S. markets," she said.

Immunotherapy is already a well-validated approach in human oncology, with blockbusters such as Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) Yervoy (ipilimumab) for melanoma continuing to rack up billions, and dozens more immuno-based drugs in the pipeline. So it's little surprise that drug developers in animal health are jumping on the bandwagon.

Another big contender in this arena is Advaxis ($ADXS), which in November announced positive Phase I data for its therapeutic vaccine in 18 dogs with osteosarcoma. The drug prompts an immunological response against the HER2 protein, which is overexpressed in some tumors, including osteosarcoma. Half of the dogs who received the treatment showed immune responses. Advaxis has licensed the drug, called ADXS-cHER2, and two others to Aratana ($PETX) for development in veterinary medicine.

- here's the Kansas City Business Journal story