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Univ. of Washington spinout Icosavax raises $51M to fight viruses with computer-designed vaccines
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Univ. of Washington spinout Icosavax raises $51M to fight viruses with computer-designed vaccines

Seattle-based biotech startup Icosavax as we speak scored $51 million in funding to create vaccines from synthetic viruses. The Sequence A financing was led by Qiming Enterprise Companions USA alongside with Adams Road Companions, Sanofi Ventures and NanoDimension.

Most vaccines practice the physique to defend in opposition to illness utilizing organic brokers — usually utilizing a innocent type of the illness they need to defend in opposition to.

Icosavax, a College of Washington spinout, is approaching the issue a bit otherwise. The startup is creating virus-like particles (VLPs) which might be designed on computer systems with expertise licensed from the Institute for Protein Design (IPD) on the UW.

“[VLPs] look and scent like viruses, which is why you get this large exercise of the immune system. However they’re protected as a result of they’re not viruses,” Icosavax CEO Adam Simpson instructed GeekWire. The particles are at present utilized in permitted vaccines for HPV and Hepatitis B.

Icosavax’s first objective is to create a vaccine for the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in adults and pursue scientific research. Sooner or later, they plan to use the identical expertise in opposition to different viruses as effectively.

RSV is comparable to the flu and is especially harmful to newborns and the aged. Grownup infections are responsible for 177,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths within the U.S. annually, in accordance to the CDC.

Icosavax is the most recent firm to spin out of IPD, which is led by Professor David Baker. The institute won $45 million earlier this 12 months from TED’s Audacious Mission and is answerable for launching startups Arzeda, Cyrus Biotechnology, PvP Biologics, Virvio, Neoleukin Therapeutics and A-Alpha Bio.

“What they’re doing at IPD is scientifically unbelievable,” stated Simpson, who additionally serves as CEO of PvP Biologics, which is engaged on a drug for Celiac illness.

The VLP expertise was invented by IPD researcher Dr. Neil King, who serves as chair of the corporate’s scientific advisory board. The corporate’s board of administrators is led by Tadataka (Tachi) Yamada, former chief medical and scientific officer of Takeda Prescribed drugs.

Usually, it might be troublesome to create a VLP for a virus-like RSV as a result of of the complexity concerned. Icosavax obtained round that downside with the assistance of proteins they designed utilizing computer systems.

By constructing proteins from scratch, the workforce was in a position to break down the complicated organic downside into extra manageable elements. When mixed, these elements come collectively to type the VLP.

“We had been extraordinarily impressed with this novel strategy utilizing computational protein design to create VLP-based vaccines which have improved efficacy and are easy to manufacture,” Mark McDade, managing companion at Qiming, stated in a press release.

Icosavax’s board of administrators additionally contains Simpson, McDade, Adams Road companion Terry Gould, U.S. head of investments at Sanofi Ventures Jason Hafler, and NanoDimension companion Eric Moessinger.

Former Takeda govt Dr. Doug Holtzman is Icosavax’s chief scientific officer, and former GSK Vaccines govt Dr. Niranjan Kanesa-thasan is chief medical officer.

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