U.K.'s PsiOxus scores $39M for colorectal cancer vaccine combo trial

Oxford, U.K.-based PsiOxus Therapeutics closed a Series C financing round, scoring £25 million ($39 million) to advance its lead candidate, enadenotucirev, an oncolytic virus aimed at fighting colorectal tumors.

The funding came from GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) VC unit and U.K. heavyweight investor Neil Woodford's new $1.2 billion fund. It will go toward testing the vaccine in combination with a checkpoint inhibitor, a route that multiple companies are trying out to salvage the troubled cancer vaccines field.

PsiOxus CEO John Beadle

"In addition to moving our enadenotucirev programme forward in a variety of solid cancer monotherapy indications, we will now be able to examine the combination of enadenotucirev with a checkpoint inhibitor in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer," CEO Dr. John Beadle said in a statement. "This leapfrog strategy could create a substantial new commercial opportunity by introducing this exciting class of immunotherapeutic agents to the large colorectal cancer market."

In Phase I trials, enadenotucirev was able to selectively reach and infect cancer cells when it was administered intravenously. The company will now run a Phase I study of the candidate with a checkpoint inhibitor in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.

PsiOxus aims to prove that the immune response caused by the candidate's infection of tumor cells will allow checkpoint inhibitors to work for such patients, whose tumors are otherwise resistant targets.

This isn't the first time that Woodford is pouring cash into cancer vaccines. In November 2014, he invested $25 million in Northwest Biotherapeutics ($NWBO) with the hope that its brain cancer candidate would succeed in Phase III. In April, he followed that up with another $40 million.

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