Vienna-based Themis Biosciences has raised €40M in a Series D round to fund a phase III trial that could lead to the approval of the world’s first vaccine for chikungunya infection.
The round, one of the largest seen in Austrian biotech so far, was co-led by two new investors, Farallon Capital and Hadean Ventures. MSD, with which Themis recently signed a partnership, also participated in the round among other investors such as Adjuvant Capital, aws Gründerfonds, Omnes Capital and Wellington Partners Life Sciences among others.
The company is now funded until the completion of the phase III trial of its chikungunya vaccine, which will be conducted across European and American countries. The clinical study is expected to start in the next few months, once the company has set up the production of the vaccine at a commercial scale.
The vaccine candidate consists of a measles virus modified to carry genes encoding proteins of the chikungunya virus. This prompts the immune system to react against the viral proteins in the event of being exposed to the virus.
“Themis’ vaccine program against the chikungunya virus is the most advanced in development,” Themis’ CEO, Erich Tauber, told me. The vaccine’s potential to become the first to immunize against the chikungunya virus has led both the FDA and EMA to fast-track the regulatory process for its approval.
The French biotech Valneva is also getting ready to launch a phase III trial for a chikungunya vaccine. But while Valneva has skipped phase II, Themis has data from a phase II trial to back its vaccine candidate.
If the trial is successful and the vaccine makes it to the market, Themis will be working with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to ensure that at-risk populations have access to the vaccine. “The terms of the agreement will further enable us to provide a vaccine in case of an outbreak,” added Tauber.
Themis is using its chikungunya vaccine to prove the potential of its vaccine platform based on the measles virus. With part of the money raised in the Series D round, the company plans to expand its pipeline into treating cancer.
“Our first product to treat colorectal cancer is planned to enter the clinic this year,” said Tauber. “Next to the inherent anti-cancer properties of the measles vector, our platform offers the potential to incorporate a battery of payloads, which we plan to investigate in more depth through this funding.”