Cancer vaccines are goal of new Oxford University company

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21st April 2021

OxVax, a spinout from Oxford University, has formed with the objective of producing vaccines for cancer.

OxVax, a new immuno-oncology firm based on research from Oxford University, has been created to deliver vaccines capable of targeting various forms of cancer.

The company is developing an off-the-shelf next-generation vaccine platform based on a unique proprietary population of dendritic cells capable of inducing a potent anti-tumour immune response.  The company’s technology allows the bulk manufacture of these dendritic cells from stem cells derived from donor’s blood.  When combined with tumour associated antigens, OxVax will be able to create a vaccine which can train the body to target and eliminate tumours. Once administered to patients, the Company’s dendritic cells are superior at migrating towards and activating cytotoxic T cells, giving the body the information it needs to identify and destroy the cancer.

The research is based on the work of Professor Paul J Fairchild and Tim Davies from the Fairchild Laboratory at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at Oxford University. Professor Fairchild, founding Director of the Oxford Stem Cell Institute, will join the company as Chair of its Scientific Advisory Board. Tim Davies, a research scientist with over 35 years’ experience in stem cell biology and immunology and instrumental in developing OxVax’s underpinning technology, will join as Head of Laboratory Operations. The founders will be joined by Marcelo Bravo as Chief Executive Officer, a serial entrepreneur who has taken two companies public via AIM and has worked with the academic founders as part of an MSc in Experimental Therapeutics at Oxford.

The company has raised its seed financing via South Korean-based biotech venture capitalist Lead Compass Investment and German biotech drug discovery and development partnership company Evotec. Financial details were not disclosed. OxVax is also a beneficiary of funding from the EPA Trust and Guy Newton Translational Fund as well as the University Challenge Seed Fund, managed by Oxford University Innovation, the research commercialisation arm of Oxford University, which also supported the creation of OxVax.

Professor Paul J Fairchild, Associate Professor of the Immunobiology of Stem Cells at Oxford University, said:

“Our research has shown how stem cells can be used to create potentially unlimited numbers of a rare cell type of the immune system responsible for orchestrating the immune response to solid tumours.  We believe that access to these cells can open the field of cancer vaccination and transform the treatment of some of the most intractable cancers.”

Marcelo Bravo, Chief Executive Officer at OxVax, added:

“Our platform enables the manufacture at scale of an off-the-shelf highly potent vaccine which addresses the major limitations that have frustrated cancer vaccine development in the past.  Our immediate focus will be the definition of the quality profile of the product and the industrialisation of the manufacturing protocol which will put us in a strong position to proceed towards the clinic.”

Dr. Thomas Hanke, Head of Academic Partnerships at Evotec, said:

“Cell therapies are finally coming of age.  This investment fits well with Evotec’s ambition to become a biotech powerhouse in future off-the-shelf cell therapy offerings.  We are very much looking forward to working with the Oxford researchers and Lead Compass to support the development of next-generation dendritic cell therapies to treat tumours with a high unmet medical need.”

Tae-erk Kim, Chief Executive officer at Lead Compass Investment, added:

“We are excited to invest in OxVax’s technology since it addresses the low migration, cross-presentation, and T-cell activation problems of past dendritic cell cancer treatments. Promising results in an oncology setting would further pave the way for OxVax to expand its technology into other therapeutic areas and be the first company to have dendritic cells act as the true control tower of the immune system.”

 

ENDS

 

Publications

Please find below a full list of research papers underpinning the OxVax platform:

Fairchild, P.J., Brook, F.A., Gardner, R.L., Graça, L., Strong, V., Tone, Y., Tone, M., Nolan, K.F., and Waldmann, H. (2000). Directed differentiation of dendritic cells from mouse embryonic stem cells. Current Biology 10, 1515–1518.

Fairchild, P.J., Nolan, K.F., Cartland, S., Graça, L., and Waldmann, H. (2003). Stable lines of genetically modified dendritic cells from mouse embryonic stem cells. Transplantation 76, 606–608.

Fairchild, P.J., Nolan, K.F., and Waldmann, H. (2007). Genetic Modification of Dendritic Cells Through the Directed Differentiation of Embryonic Stem Cells. In Immunological Tolerance, P.J. Fairchild, ed. (Totowa, NJ: Humana Press), pp. 59–72.

Fairchild, P.J., Horton, C., Lahiri, P., Shanmugarajah, K., and Davies, T.J. (2016). Beneath the sword of Damocles: regenerative medicine and the shadow of immunogenicity. Regenerative Medicine 11, 817–829.

Fairchild, P.J., Davies, T.J., Horton, C., Shanmugarajah, K., and Bravo, M. (2019). Immunotherapy with iPSC-derived dendritic cells brings a new perspective to an old debate: autologous versus allogeneic? Cell Gene Therapy Insights 5, 565–577.

Horton, C., Davies, T.J., Lahiri, P., Sachamitr, P., and Fairchild, P.J. iPS cells reprogrammed from primary dendritic cells provide an abundant source of immunostimulatory dendritic cells for use in immunotherapy. STEM CELLS n/a.

Leishman, A., and Fairchild, P.J. (2014). Differentiation of Dendritic Cells from Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells. In Stem Cells and Cancer Stem Cells, Volume 12, M.A. Hayat, ed. (Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands), pp. 29–37.

Sachamitr, P., Leishman, A.J., Davies, T.J., and Fairchild, P.J. (2018). Directed Differentiation of Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells into Dendritic Cells Displaying Tolerogenic Properties and Resembling the CD141+ Subset. Front. Immunol. 8, 1935.

Silk, K.M., Tseng, S.-Y., Nishimoto, K.P., Lebkowski, J., Reddy, A., and Fairchild, P.J. (2011). Differentiation of Dendritic Cells from Human Embryonic Stem Cells. In Human Pluripotent Stem Cells, P.H. Schwartz, and R.L. Wesselschmidt, eds. (Totowa, NJ: Humana Press), pp. 449–461.

Silk, K.M., Silk, J.D., Ichiryu, N., Davies, T.J., Nolan, K.F., Leishman, A.J., Carpenter, L., Watt, S.M., Cerundolo, V., and Fairchild, P.J. (2012). Cross-presentation of tumour antigens by human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived CD141+XCR1+ dendritic cells. Gene Ther. 19, 1035–1040.

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