Takeda, Boehringer invest to move CMV vaccine into clinic

Since detailing its plans to establish a global vaccine business, Takeda has been fairly transparent about its areas of interest. And having ticked candidates to protect against respiratory syncytial virus, dengue and norovirus off the list, its venture unit has invested in another stated target: cytomegalovirus (CMV).

The investment by Takeda Ventures forms part of a $27 million Series B round for Austrian vaccine startup Hookipa Biotech AG. Several European investment groups and the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund also contributed to the round, giving Hookipa the cash to advance its CMV vaccine candidate into Phase I. The vaccine is underpinned by a viral vector platform developed in the lab of Swiss Nobel Prize-winning immunotherapy expert Rolf Zinkernagel, FierceBiotech reports.

Zinkernagel and his team substituted the gene encoding the viral envelope protein for the gene of interest. This created a viral vector that is capable of infecting target cells and stimulating an immune response, but lacks the ability to replicate. In animal studies, Hookipa has shown that this approach stimulates strong antibody and CD8+ T-cell responses. And with the virus stripped of its ability to replicate, the company is optimistic that vaccines using the vector will prove to be nonpathogenic and inherently safe in humans.

The first trial of a vaccine using the viral vector is now imminent, with the CMV jab in late preclinical and the money in place to move into the clinic. Hookipa also plans to use some of the Series B cash to expand its pipeline. The company thinks its vaccine technology has applications in prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines for a variety of infectious diseases and cancers. 

- read FierceBiotech's article
- here's the press release
- view Takeda's partnership targets