Medical Innovation Exchange

OncoMyx nabs $50M to jump into the clinic with its rabbit pox virus cancer drug

In April, startup OncoMyx published some very early preclinical models showing its engineered rabbit pox virus could help against lung cancer; now, it’s got off a $50 million funding round to take its big idea into the clinic.

Last year, OncoMyx Therapeutics unveiled preclinical data showing its engineered rabbit pox virus therapy could slow tumor growth in mouse models of melanoma and bone cancer. Then, this April, it unveiled more preclinical evidence, this time in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

To make its therapy, OncoMyx armed the rabbit pox virus, called myxoma virus, with genes encoding for the cytokine interleukin-12 and the sugared protein decorin. In a mouse model of NSCLC, the drug successfully slowed tumor growth, according to results unveiled at the American Association for Cancer Research virtual annual meeting in the spring.

OncoMyx believes the data build on a growing body of evidence that supports the development of its oncolytic virus, which its scientists are engineering to carry therapeutic proteins that directly eliminate cancer cells while simultaneously stimulating an anti-tumor immune response.

The drug also boosts interferon-alpha, interferon-gamma and IL-12 signaling pathways, which are associated with anti-tumor immune responses.

This is still a tough sell: The oncolytic virus approach has shown some promise, but also some setbacks in the clinic, with only one approved drug from Amgen on the market.

RELATED: Arming the rabbit pox virus to fight cancer

The Phoenix-based biotech believes that it has an edge, however, because myxoma is not pathogenic to humans, it does not have to overcome preexisting immunity and will therefore be “highly amenable to IV and repeat dosing with a longer dosing window.”

OncoMyx will now hope to do better that its peers and has the tough task of moving on from preclinical promise to the harsh realities of trying to prove its model works in humans. With that $50 million series B, co-led by Lumira Ventures and B Capital Group with participation from LYZZ Capital and series A investors—Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund, Delos Capital, Xeraya—it now has that chance.

It’s keeping mum on exacts targets and the nature of its lead asset, though we do know it plans to start clinical work “next year.”

“OncoMyx builds on more than three decades of research into the myxoma virus, brings together the top team with experience  developing targeted cancer treatments, immunotherapies, and virotherapies, and is fueled by a commitment to addressing unmet medical needs in patients with cancer,” said Steve Potts, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of OncoMyx.

“The power of our myxoma platform is the potential to systemically deliver broad and selective targeting of cancer cells combined with robust activation of the cancer immunity cycle in a single therapeutic. With this financing, we plan to advance our lead multi-armed myxoma immunotherapy into clinical trials to demonstrate initial safety and efficacy of intravenous dosing.”  

Medical Innovation Exchange

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