San Diego’s IconOVir Bio has raised $77 million in Series A financing to develop differentiated oncolytic virus candidates which the company believes could be tumor-selective to infect and destroy tumor cells.
The financing was co-led by Nextech and Vida Ventures. IconOVir was founded by Two River Group and is chaired by Dr. Arie Bellegrum who founded Kite Pharma, Allogene Therapeutics and Kronos Bio. Dr. Mark McCamish was named the chief executive officer of IconOVir.
The science was developed by Dr. Clodagh O’Shea of the Salk Institute along with Bellegrun and Dr. David Chang of CAR T-cell therapy companies, Kite Pharma and Allogene Therapeutics.
McCamish joined a few boards and thought about retiring last year, after Gilead Sciences acquired Forty Seven, but did not because he felt there was a calling for him to contribute to the treatment of cancer.
“There were many different opportunities,” said McCamish, in a statement. “You look for transformational science, but then you look for the people. When you run into barriers, you want to have people who can get you over the barriers that are there.”
IconOVir developed a proprietary platform to create next-generation oncolytic viruses based on O’Shea’s research. Their research and discovery program has identified multiple differentiated oncolytic virus candidates that have the potential to be potent, tumor-selective, administered intravenously and broadly infect tumor cells.
Oncolytic viruses infect and destroy cancer cells and leave healthy cells untouched. The viruses infect or enter the cells and use the cell’s genetic machinery to multiply and spread to surrounding uninfected cells. These viruses can occur naturally, but they can also be made in the laboratory by changing other viruses. Oncolytic viruses are being studied to treat cancer.
“Conquering cancer requires therapeutic agents that are as genetically sophisticated and deadly as the tumor itself,” said Dr. O’Shea in the same statement. “With a team of visionary leaders, IconOVir has the requisite experience to translate transformative science into game-changing cancer therapies. As Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board, I look forward to providing my insights and expertise towards advancing the IconOVir pipeline into the clinic.”
IOV-1042 is the lead candidate for IconOVir and it is derived from the common cold virus. This candidate, in preclinical research, has been shown to infect and kill a broad range of tumor cells, which include head, neck, bladder, lung and breast cancers. This means it could have the potential to apply to a wide range of solid tumor indications.
“IconOVir has a proven management team, led by Dr. Mark McCamish, and its oncolytic viral platform can transform the clinical landscape for how we treat patients with solid tumors,” said Dr. David Chang, chairman of IconOVir’s board of directors, in the same statement. “Given my personal experience in developing oncolytic viruses, I look forward to working with Mark, the management team and other board members to grow this company and advance innovative oncolytic virotherapy, which has the potential to be disruptive to the current cancer treatment paradigm.”
“We are committed to designing and developing the next generation of high-potency, tumor-selective oncolytic viruses that can be used in a wide variety of solid tumors, including metastatic disease. This can address the major limitations of the only currently marketed oncolytic virus therapy,” said Dr. McCamish, in the statement. “In pursuit of that goal, and in collaboration with Dr. O’Shea, we have created a robust discovery pipeline. With our Series A financing, raised from the support of premier healthcare investors, we believe we have the financial resources to advance our product candidates into clinical development over the next 18 to 24 months.”