Themis nabs €10M series C for chikungunya, Zika push

An investment fund formed by J.P. Morgan and the Gates Foundation led Themis' €10 million series C.

About a year after a €10 million series B, Austrian vaccine company Themis has secured a series C in the same amount led by new investor Global Health Investment Fund (GHIF).

The money will again be used to advance a chikungunya vaccine, which is being tested in three phase 2 trials in central Europe, Puerto Rico and U.S. mainland, a Zika candidate that entered human testing last April, as well as other preclinical assets against RSV and norovirus. These vaccines are based on Themis’ proprietary Themaxyn platform developed at Institut Pasteur, which uses a measles vaccine as a vector to carry antigen-encoding genes.

Themis recently reported positive interim results from the European trial on its chikungunya vaccine, the most advanced program in its pipeline. The vaccine induced neutralizing antibodies in all treatment groups 56 days after first immunization, and the seroconversion rate reached 95% after two doses.

The European trial will have final readouts midyear, but CEO Erich Tauber, Ph.D., told FierceVaccines that the U.S. and Puerto Rico trials were delayed by hurricanes Harvey and Maria. The program also received £3 million worth of funding from the U.K.’s National Institute for Biological Standards and Control to develop a monkey challenge model and to conduct a small phase 1 in the country.

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New investor GHIF led the round because it sees “tremendous potential in Themis’ technology platform” and is “impressed with Themis’ ability to navigate complex clinical, regulatory and manufacturing issues,” commented GHIF partner Glenn Rockman, who has joined Themis’ board.

While at J.P. Morgan’s investment banking division, Rockman worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to build GHIF. The fund is focused on late-stage projects in drugs, vaccines and diagnostics for diseases that burden low-income populations. It has supported projects in malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, cholera and preventable causes of maternal and infant mortality.

No vaccine is available for either chikungunya or Zika, both mosquito-borne viruses. In chikungunya, Themis is notably vying against PaxVax, which in-licensed its candidate from the NIH, and India’s Bharat Biotech and secretive Moderna are working on their phase 1 programs. More candidates are competing in Zika, including one from Inovio, a U.S. Army-developed shot Sanofi recently walked away from, and one from a Valneva-Emergent BioSolutions partnership, among others.