Helsinki-based Valo Therapeutics, an immuno-oncology company developing tumour antigen-coated oncolytic viruses as therapeutic vaccines, announced that it has raised €11M in an oversubscribed pre-IPO funding round.
With this, the company has now raised a total of over €22M in funding to date. The capital will support the preparation of Valo’s IPO in 2022.
Investors and capital utilisation
The round was led by the corporate advisory firm Ironside Capital. This pre-IPO fund included participation from existing investors Freeman Road and new investors including ASX-listed MMJ Group Holdings.
According to Valo Therapeutics, the majority of the proceeds from this round will be used to finalise preparations and initiate a Phase 1 clinical study of the company’s lead tumour antigen-coated oncolytic virus candidate, PeptiCRAd-1. The funds will also be invested in the company’s continued development of the anti-infectives platforms including PeptiBAC and PeptiVAX.
Paul Higham, CEO of Valo, says, “This successful financing is yet another significant milestone as we further validate our PeptiCRAd platform and now take the important step into the first clinical study. In addition, the financing will allow us to further validate our other oncology and infectious disease platforms and our pan Coronavirus T-cell vaccine.”
A new Chief Scientific Officer
Besides the fundraise, Valo Therapeutics also announced the internal promotion to Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) of Dr Sari Pesonen, the company’s current Head of R&D and a co-founder of the company.
CEO of Valo, Higham says, “I’m delighted to announce Dr. Sari Pesonen as our new CSO, who has been instrumental in bringing the company to this point and will continue to focus on advancing our immunotherapy platforms.”
Dr. Pesonen, who previously led scientific development in immuno-oncology biotech companies, has experience in clinical drug development, including, at Oncos Therapeutics, which demonstrated the mode of action of oncolytic adenovirus-based cancer immunotherapy. She is also co-author of over 60 peer-reviewed research papers and inventor in several patents related to oncolytic viruses.
Speaking about the new role, Pesonen says, “I’m thrilled to become Valo’s CSO after 5 years heading R&D at Valo, pursuing my passion to develop immunotherapy platforms. We expect our platform will be a powerful system to deliver advanced individualised or ‘patient-specific’ cancer treatments, in indications including metastatic melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, and triple-negative breast cancer.”
Sari has a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Turku, Finland.
“Reinventing immunotherapy in oncology and infectious disease”
Founded in 2016, Valo Therapeutics is developing novel immunotherapies for cancer and infectious disease that are projected to transform treatment and prevention for millions of patients. It is a spin-out company from the IVTLab at the University of Helsinki, Finland.
The company mentioned on its website that, “Our unique approach, based on the selective use of oncolytic and non-replicating vectors with disease-specific peptides, delivers a highly specific, immunogenic and rapidly adaptable platform for the treatment of cancer and for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.”
PeptiCRAd (Peptide-coated Conditionally Replicating Adenovirus), the company’s lead platform developed by Professor Vincenzo Cerullo at the University of Helsinki, turns oncolytic adenoviruses into targeted tissue-specific cancer vaccines without the need to generate and manufacture multiple genetically modified viruses.
According to Velo, PeptiCRAd is combining the features of two clinically proven cancer immunotherapy approaches: oncolytic adenoviruses and peptide vaccines. PeptiCRAd uses tumour replication-specific oncolytic viruses as active carriers of tumour-specific peptides to direct the immune system to specifically target and kill cancer cells.
Furthermore, the company is also developing PeptiENV and PeptiVAX, among other neoantigen strategies, in collaboration with Professor Cerullo.
PeptiENV is expected to improve the therapeutic response to oncolytic enveloped viruses in the treatment of multiple forms of cancer, while PeptiVAX is a program to develop a novel, adaptable anti-infectives vaccination platform.
Here’s a film explaining the PeptiCRAd technology: