Themis rounds up new cash for Chikungunya jab's PhII

Aedes mosquitoes transmit Chikungunya to people.--Courtesy of CDC

After the first closing of a Series B round Wednesday, Themis Bioscience will have an infusion of €7 million ($7.9 million) to work with as it ushers its Chikungunya fever vaccine into Phase II and welcomes a new chairman and two new board members.

The Austrian biotech will use the money take its vaccine against the mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus into Phase II; the candidate demonstrated favorable immunogenicity, safety and tolerability in a Phase I trial, Vienna-based Themis said. New investor Wellington Partners led in the Series B financing round of up to €10 million ($11.3 million), while existing investors Ventech and Omnes Capital participated.

But the work won't stop with the Chikungunya vaccine for Themis. The venture cash will also help the company work on other candidates in partnership with the Pasteur Institute, whose measles vector platform--licensed to Themis--led to the development of the Chikungunya candidate. To make the jab, the biotech inserted gene codes from the virus into the genome of the measles vaccine, leading the partners to believe its potential success can be replicated.

"The Phase I results of the Chikungunya vaccine candidate prove that the measles vector vaccine platform can be used successfully to develop a new generation of prophylactic vaccines, and the Institut Pasteur, which developed its core technology, is keen to strengthen its alliance with Themis to develop those innovative vaccine candidates," Pasteur's Frédéric Tangy said at the time.

Regina Hodits

Along with the financing news, the company said it named Dr. Gerd Zettlmeissl as its chairman and added two board members: vaccine industry expert Dr. Jean-Paul Prieels--formerly SVP of R&D at GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals--and Dr. Regina Hodits of Wellington Partners.

"With global warming and increased travel activities, tropical diseases like Chikungunya, dengue fever, and other viral diseases are becoming a serious threat to global health," Hodits said in a statement. "Based on a proven measles vaccine platform, Themis' portfolio of vaccine candidates represent an attractive investment opportunity for Wellington, and they have the potential to address urgent unmet medical needs."

Themis' first venture round came in 2011, when the company raised €5 million ($5.7 million). That followed a seed financing from Austria Wirtschaftsservice in 2009, plus contributions from Austrian national funding agencies.

- here's the release