Inviragen, SingVax merge their complementary vaccine pipelines

Inviragen and SingVax have merged their complementary vaccine pipelines and their international product development capabilities to create a company that is developing a wide range of vaccines for infectious diseases prevalent in emerging economies. Concurrently with the merger, the combined company raised $15 million in a Series A equity investment from a syndicate of international venture capital investors, including Charter Life Sciences (Palo Alto, CA), Venture Investors (Madison, WI), Bio*One Capital (Singapore) and Phillip Private Equity (Singapore).

The combined company will retain the Inviragen name and will have research and corporate operations in Fort Collins, Colorado, vaccine development operations in Singapore and vaccine testing capabilities in Madison, Wisconsin. “Post-merger, Inviragen has three vaccines poised to begin human clinical trials,” noted Dr. Dan Stinchcomb, Inviragen Chief Executive Officer. “During the next 18 months, these clinical studies will test vaccine safety and measure the immune responses induced by these three vaccines to establish 'proof-of-concept' of their efficacy.”

Inviragen’s lead vaccine is designed to protect against dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease that threatens 3.6 billion people who live in tropical and subtropical regions around the globe. Thirty-six million cases of dengue fever are thought to occur per year worldwide. The most severe form of the disease, dengue hemorrhagic fever, leads to the deaths of approximately 20,000 people annually. Both the number of reported cases and the number of countries affected have been on the rise, and the disease could continue to spread due to increasing urbanization, international travel and global warming. Dengue is a major risk for international travelers: traveler’s cases of dengue outnumber malaria for every continent except Africa. Human clinical testing of Inviragen’s dengue vaccine is expected to commence in 2010 in the U.S., Colombia, and Singapore.

Inviragen’s second vaccine is designed to protect against hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD). Large epidemics of HFMD have plagued children in Asia for the last twenty years. Notably, a major outbreak is underway this year in China, with over 700,000 cases reported through July. There have also been yearly outbreaks of HFMD among children in Singapore; 2008 was the worst epidemic year to date with over 29,000 cases, which represents more than 9% of the estimated susceptible population.

The third Inviragen vaccine protects against Japanese encephalitis, a mosquito-borne virus that causes 35,000 to 50,000 severe clinical cases and kills 10,000 to 15,000 children throughout Asia every year.

Inviragen is also developing vaccines to protect against other important infectious diseases, including chikungunya, HPV, West Nile and influenza.

“Inviragen’s lead vaccine product candidates have the potential to make a significant impact on the health and well-being of billions of people worldwide,” said Mr. Fred Schwarzer, Managing Partner of Charter Life Sciences. “We are pleased to have brought together a group of experienced international investors to enable the development of these important products.”

“Venture Investors was impressed with Inviragen’s vision of building an international vaccine development company and the experience and complementary skills of their management team,” said Mr. John Neis of Venture Investors. “The Series A equity financing will fund the Phase 1 and 2 clinical testing of Inviragen’s lead vaccines and fund company operations well into 2012.”

Dr. Duane Gubler, Director of the Duke/National University of Singapore Program in Emerging Infectious Diseases and a founding advisor to Inviragen, stated, “Inviragen and SingVax are technical innovators in vaccine development. We look forward to productive collaborations to study dengue, HFMD, Japanese encephalitis, chikungunya and other emerging infectious diseases.”

“Singapore is an ideal geographical base for Inviragen’s vaccine development efforts,” noted Dr. Joseph Santangelo, Chief Operating Officer. “We have easy access to the growing economies and manufacturing capabilities of greater Asia, and we have access to world-class infectious disease and biotechnology research in Singapore.”

“We believe we are investing in a portfolio of vaccines that has the potential to make significant contributions to global public health,” commented Mr. Alex Koo, Director, Phillip Private Equity. “We also believe in the impressive and experienced team led by Dr. Stinchcomb and Dr. Santangelo.”

Ms. Chu Swee Yeok, Chief Executive Officer, Bio*One Capital of EDB Investments commented, “We are excited about Inviragen’s efforts and progress in addressing important diseases not only prevalent in Singapore and Asia but increasingly prevalent in countries globally. Inviragen’s integrated international R&D capabilities through operations in the United States and Singapore will position it well to drive the successful clinical and commercial development of these needed vaccines.”

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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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