A new cancer vaccine that uses viral particles to trigger strong immune responses against cancer cells is being developed by Valo Therapeutics.
The company recently closed a seed-funding round that involved forging multiple strategic partnerships with word-class investors in the field.
“We invested into Valo Tx because the business concept is novel, with potential for enormous impact; and it is backed by a highly experienced team,” Dr. Paul Porter, director of Freeman Road, said in a news release. Freeman, a family consortium with extensive experience in healthcare technology, is a primary Investor in Valo Therapeutics.
Oncolytic viruses are viral particles designed to contain cancer proteins inside their capsules. When antigen-presenting cells — immune cells that activate cytotoxic T-cells toward a specific target — engulf the viral particles, the particles present viral and cancer proteins at their surface. The viral proteins activate T-cells against the virus, and the cancer proteins activate T-cells against the cancer.
With current treatment methods, most proteins presented to T-cells are of viral origin. That means most T-cells will be activated to target the viral particles rather than the cancer cells.
The novel oncolytic-virotherapy approach, known as PeptiCRAd, contains tumor proteins attached to the surface of the virus. This means most of the proteins presented to T-cells are tumor proteins, so most of the immune response will be directed against the tumor.
“Our approach seeks to revolutionise the way oncolytic virotherapies will be used in the future,” said Professor Vincenzo Cerullo, who developed the technology, adding that “this technology is applicable to nearly all viruses being used at the moment.” Cerullo, a leader in this field, is head of the University of Helsinki Department of Pharmacy’s Drug Research Program.
“I was struck by the quality of the company’s very promising pre-clinical data. In addition, the team is equipped with all the expertise necessary to accelerate this treatment to market, providing patients with a potentially transformational therapy,” said Dr. Michael Stein, the incoming chairman of Valo Tx. “Valo Tx is fortunate to have the strategic backing of some highly experienced investors including the University of Helsinki, as well as the resources of the University of Helsinki Innovation Services (HIS).”
Valo is planning to take its oncolytic viral therapy into clinical trials for cancers with unmet therapeutic needs in 2018. The team will focus on two cancers to start with, but expand to others over time.