Ervaxx, a cancer therapy company based on the work of the Crick’s George Kassiotis, has launched today. After two years of incubation by SV Health Investors, the company will be working to develop off-the-shelf cancer vaccines and other immunotherapies.
Ervaxx’s initial approach was based on ‘endogenous retroviruses’ or retroviral DNA, dormant fragments of DNA left in our genome by viruses that infected our ancestors, which make up around 8% of our genome. George’s group at the Crick found that when a cell becomes cancerous, it can reactivate these dormant sections of DNA, sending signals (‘Dark Antigens’) which are visible to the immune system.
The company was established with the aim of developing vaccines that train the immune system to spot these antigens and target cancerous cells. Ervaxx has since broadened its work by creating a platform which scans other dormant sections of DNA to find more tumour-specific antigens which have the potential to combat cancer.
Ervaxx has raised $17.5 million in seed/Series A funding from SV Health Investors and a leading global pharmaceutical company, with which it also has a strategic R&D partnership.
The team has already identified more than 2,000 potential target antigens for melanoma, the focus of Ervaxx’s lead cancer vaccine. The company will also be expanding into other cancers with high unmet medical needs, such as non-small cell lung cancer and ovarian cancer.
“The science behind Ervaxx is truly ground-breaking and opens up exciting possibilities for the development of new and multiple modalities of tumour-specific cancer therapies based on Dark Antigens,” says Houman Ashrafian, the Crick’s former Expert in Residence who worked with the team to develop the company.
“We are delighted with the progress the company has made during its incubation phase. An excellent team has been brought together with new R&D capabilities to rapidly drive the translation of this research into the clinic. We look forward to supporting its progress as a pioneer in this new cancer immunotherapy approach.”
“It’s been hugely rewarding to see the team and the company develop so successfully over the past two years,” says George. “I’m excited to see where the next few years will take us. We’re now in a strong position to target a wide range of cancers and get this technology into the clinic as soon as possible.”