The Swiss biotech Anaveon closed a very respectable €31M (CHF35M) Series A fundraising round to help progress its T-cell boosting, cancer-fighting treatment to the clinic.
The company’s candidate therapy mimics the action of a protein called interleukin 2, which is naturally found in the body. Interleukin 2 stimulates the immune system to produce more infection-fighting T cells and, in some cases, activate them to help fight cancer.
Human interleukin 2 is already being used to treat metastatic melanoma and renal cancer, and is arguably the first effective immunotherapy for cancer. The first patient with metastatic melanoma was treated with interleukin 2 in 1984, and has remained disease-free ever since.
While interleukin 2 is an effective treatment, it has known drawbacks including a high level of toxicity and a fairly short lifespan, meaning multiple doses are needed. Anaveon claims its candidate drug is designed to overcome these issues.
Anaveon was founded in 2017 by Swiss immunotherapy experts from the University of Zurich and the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. Initial funding for the company came from the University of Zurich Life Sciences Fund and the healthcare accelerator Baselaunch.
The series A round was led by Syncona, a UK-based life science investment trust, who contributed €25M (CHF 28M) and will have a 47% stake in the company. The Novartis Venture Fund also helped finance the round.
Anaveon is not the only company trying to develop side effect-free interleukin 2 treatments. A US-based biotech called Neoleukin Therapeutics has designed a man-made version of the protein that has shown anti-cancer effects with minimal side effects in animal studies.
Whether Anaveon or Neoleukin Therapeutics will succeed in producing an effective, side-effect free version of interleukin 2 remains to be seen. However, the renewed interest in this area of immuno-oncology and size of Anaveon’s fundraising round suggests that investors still have hope that this is achievable.
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