Themis is one step closer in its push for a successful Chikungunya vaccine. With its second round of financing worth €10 million, the company is aiming to complete the ongoing phase 2 trial of its candidate against the mosquito-borne disease.
The Austrian vaccine specialist started the phase 2 testing of the Chikungunya vaccine candidate in August after receiving the first €7 million in this round of financing. It is currently testing the shot on 320 volunteers in Europe, and has also received help from the U.S. Department of Defense to carry out tests in Puerto Rico.
The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research itself is also testing a Chikungunya vaccine and has enlisted Engility in a $10 million contract to do part of the job.
Themis’ vaccine is based on the Themaxyn platform, which the company licensed from Institut Pasteur in Paris. The technology, which lays the foundation of Themis’ entire pipeline, uses a well-established measles virus vaccine as a vector. Results from the company’s phase 1 trials of its Chikunguya vaccine also proved the vector’s potential application in developing other candidates.
In fact, Themis is channeling both the Series B money and the knowledge acquired from the drug delivery technology to research on a vaccine that fights the topic-of-the-year virus—Zika. After a year of testing, Themis has identified several Zika antigens suitable for the development of a vaccine. It tested several candidate vaccines in animal models, and has already initiated a toxicity study and GMP manufacturing.
Financial support for pushing the Zika vaccine candidate forward is also in place. The company in September secured 1 million British Pounds from Innovate UK—the U.K.’s government agency focused on funding science and technology innovations—to move the Zika vaccine into clinical trials.
Inovio, followed by the NIH and Walter Reed, have already started human trials of their respective Zika vaccine candidates. The advantage of its version, Themis said, is a validated and cost-efficient production process.
Whatever the company is doing, it is clearly exciting investors. Apart from existing investors involved in the Series A and first phase of Series B, including Ventech, Omnes Capital and Wellington Partners, Austria’s leading venture fund aws Gruenderfonds also participated in this round, among other undisclosed angel investors.