Okairos has announced the completion of a second private financing round totalling €16 million, enabling the company to advance its portfolio of vaccines through to clinical proof of concept.
The financing was led by Versant Ventures and joined by the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund. All existing investors – BioMedPartners, LSP and Novartis Venture Funds – also participated in the round.
Okairos’ vaccines aim to elicit a strong T-cell response and thereby make use of the cellular arm of the immunological response to tackle major infectious diseases in indications, including malaria, HIV, hepatitis C and flu.
“Our investors recognize the huge unmet need in chronic infections,” said Riccardo Cortese, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Okairos. “Existing technologies have not lived up to their promise and this investment will allow us to explore a new approach that exploits the body’s immune response.”
Versant Ventures’ Managing Director Brad Bolzon said, “We believe Okairos’ proprietary technology in adenovirus vectors could provide a solution to fight some of the world’s most life-threatening and virulent diseases. The deep insights of the management team in genetic vaccines and their proven track record in drug development compelled us to make this investment in one of the fastest growing markets.”
Michel Pairet, Head of the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund added: “We see Okairos as a great investment opportunity, aligned with our strategy that defines T-cell vaccines as one of our top priorities. There is also great potential in the development of therapeutic cancer vaccines.”
Okairos was formed in 2007 as a spin-out from Merck and is headquartered in Basel, with laboratories in Rome and Naples. The company’s technology platform is centred on the development of adenovirus vectors to generate a pipeline of T-cell vaccines against a range of infectious diseases, for which there is currently no effective vaccine. The company is also exploring therapeutic vaccines to treat cancer.