Seattle vaccine startup Curevo, which is developing a vaccine against shingles, raised $26 million.
The funding comes on the heels of $60 million raised in February to advance the company’s clinical trial for its shot against shingles, a painful condition caused by reactivation of the virus that causes chicken pox.
The startup aims to develop a shingles vaccine with a better safety profile and equivalent effectiveness to the leading vaccine on the market. It’s taking on pharma giant GSK, which pulled in $2.3 billion in sales last year for Shingrix, its shingles vaccine approved in 2017.
The Curevo shot is built from a non-living component of the virus and a proprietary adjuvant, a substance added to a shot to boost vaccine effectiveness.
In September, Curevo completed enrollment of 678 people in its phase 2b trial in the U.S. comparing its shot, CRV-101, to Shingrix. The trial’s primary endpoints will measure safety and immunological outcomes, including levels of antibody against the virus. Data from the trial are due in early 2023.
“We see significant commercial potential for a shingles vaccine that could match the clinical profile of Shingrix,” said Andy Acker, portfolio manager at Janus Henderson Investors in a statement Wednesday announcing the funding round. “CRV-101 has the potential to demonstrate a favorable tolerability profile with comparable immunogenicity to Shingrix.”
Janus Henderson Investors is a participant in the new funding round along with RA Capital Management, Adjuvant Capital, and founding investor GC Biopharma, a South Korean biopharma company.
Curevo was established in 2018 as a partnership GC Pharma; the Mogam Institute for Biomedical Research, a global non-profit research organization based in Seoul; and Seattle’s Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI), now the Access to Advanced Health Institute. GC Pharma has the capability of manufacturing vaccines at scale, and IDRI developed adjuvant technology.
IDRI founder Steve Reed is Curevo’s executive advisor and director; he also serves as CEO of HDT Bio, a Seattle company developing a COVID-19 vaccine that was recently approved in India. Curevo’s CEO George Simeon previously worked in South Korea for SK Telecom’s healthcare division and as an executive with Johnson & Johnson.
Shingrix yields side effects that interfere with regular activities in one of six recipients, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Dontrol. Curevo reported only a 1.3% rate of such activity-limiting side effects in phase 1 studies.
Curevo may also face competition from COVID-19 shot makers Pfizer and BioNTech, which recently announced a partnership to also develop a shingles vaccine. Curevo is also developing a vaccine against chickenpox.