New HIV vaccine player Aelix Therapeutics hits the scene with $12.7M Series A

Joining a wave of companies racing in the HIV vaccines space, Aelix Therapeutics announced a $12.7 million Series A round this week--and funding from Johnson & Johnson Innovation--to support work on its therapeutic HIV vaccine candidate.

Barcelona, Spain-based Aelix will use the money to further the development of its HTI immunogen candidate up to the completion of a Phase II proof-of-concept study; clinical trials are expected to start in Q3 2016. The company is a spinoff of Spain's HIVACAT project--an HIV vaccines initiative--and the researchers said they started with data from more than 1,000 HIV-infected patients to identify T cell targets for their therapeutic vaccine.

The funding round was led by Ysois Capital and supported by others including Johnson & Johnson Innovation. Aelix's founders are Jordi Naval and Drs. Christian Brander, Bonaventura Clotet, and Josep Maria Gatell, each with decades of HIV and biotech development experience, according to the company's release.

Aelix will be working in a field that has seen a stream of activity in the past several months as companies and research institutions strive to advance their HIV vaccine candidates. In November, the European Commission committed €23 million to launch a 22-member research initiative aimed at taking both protective and therapeutic candidates to clinical trials within 5 years. In their announcement, the commission's coordinator said he hopes the work will build on the "enormous scientific progress gleaned over the last few years."

Dr. Robert Gallo

Other groups large and small have touted their own progress in the field of late. Last July, Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) said its candidate showed progress in monkeys and that it would start a Phase I/IIa clinical trial. Then, in October, the University of Maryland under the direction of HIV researcher Dr. Robert Gallo launched a clinical trial of a vaccine called Full Length Single Chain to test its ability to create a broad antibody response, a quality numerous developers are seeking.

The Scripps Research Institute has also reported progress recently. Last June, a team there reported promising preclinical results and pledged to speak with federal regulators about human trials. Duke University and Scripps Florida also netted funding last year for work in the field.

- here's Aelix's release