Amarna Therapeutics, a Dutch privately held emerging biotech venture developing a next-generation SV40-based gene delivery vector platform called SVac that promises to transform gene-replacement and immunotherapy across many diseases areas, just raised €10 million. Led by Flerie Invest AB, a Swedish investment firm additional capital flowed from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl) which offered “an innovation credit” as well as from existing shareholder Pim Gerger.
The company will use the funding to advance development of the SVac platform towards a first-in-man clinical study to commence in two to three years from the present. Armana Therapeutics also recruited a new Supervisory Board to help underpin a new “Clinical” phase of its growth and development. New members include Thomas Eldered (Supervisory Board Chairman), Bernhard Kircschbaum, Maarten de Chateau, Ted Fjällman, Pim Berger, and Guillaume Jetten.
Who is Armana Therapeutics?
Founded in 2008, they are a privately held biotech venture headquartered in Leiden, The Netherlands with a research facility in Seville, Spain. The company has developed the SVac viral gene delivery vector platform, the key to the success of gene replacement therapy and therapeutic reverse vaccines. SVac is safe, highly efficient and non-immunogenic in humans, creating opportunities to treat the diseases with unmet clinical need including genetic disorders, degenerative/inflammatory/autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and cancer.
What is SVac Platform?
Gene therapy represents a next wave of medicines potentially capable of curing today’s major diseases. Key to success of gene therapy will be the safe and efficient delivery of the therapeutic genes to the proper cells of the body. Viruses evolve to efficiently transfer and express their genes in host cells. This ability renders them ideally suited for use as gene delivery vectors. Viral vectors that are currently used for gene therapy cannot be administered in vivo due to their instability (in the case of lentiviral vectors) or immunogenicity resulting in low transgene expression levels over time (in the case of AAV vectors).
Gene delivery vectors derived from Simian virus 40 (SV40) are an attractive alternative to lentiviral and AAV vectors for clinical gene therapy. SV40 is a polyomavirus that strictly replicates in its natural host, macaques, where it causes chronic asymptomatic infections. SV40 particles enter infected cells by an unique mechanism that enables them to evade exposure to the host immune system. Since humans can be considered naïve to SV40, it is expected that SV40 vectors are non-immunogenic or tolerogenic when applied in clinical settings. The non-immunogenicity also named tolerogenicity in humans renders SV40 vectors highly attractive for use in gene therapy and immunotherapies.
Armana Therapeutics adapted the SV40 genome used for the production of vector particles. In parallel, they generated a novel Vero-based packaging cell line named SuperVero that exclusively expresses the SV40 large T antigen needed for the replication of the vector genomes and for production of the capsid proteins. SuperVero cells produce similar numbers of SV40 vector particles to the currently used packaging cell lines, albeit in the absence of contaminating wild type SV40 particles. They position their platform as a way to carve out a path to clinically evaluate a whole new generation of SV40-based therapeutics for a broad range of important diseases.
Who are the Founders?
Who are the Investors?
Flerie Invest AB is a venture capital firm based in Stockholm, Sweden, focusing on life science investments globally. RVO.nl is run under the auspices of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy and stimulates entrepreneurs and others to improve opportunities, strengthen positions and help realize international ambitions with investments. Pim Berger is a successful entrepreneur.
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