Cancer vaccine firm Oxford Vacmedix (OVM), an Oxford University spinout, has raised $12.5m from Chinese and Korean investors in its latest round of Series A financing.

The money raised will be used to propel the company’s two lead vaccine candidates, OVM-100 and OVM-200, through preclinical development and into clinical trials.

OVM-100 is an HPV vaccine that targets cervical cancer, and OVM-200 uses survivin to target solid tumours. Both will be developed as single agents as well as in combination with immuno-oncology agents. The company will also continue its development of diagnostic kits for cellular immunity.

“We’ll be kicking off work with the contract manufacturing organisation, taking the process that’s already developed and scaling it up to get to sufficient quantities so we can actually begin treating patients with the vaccines,” OVM director Anthony Coombs told Drug Development Technology.

“When we’ve got the preclinical work and the scale up from the manufacturer, we’ll put in the application to the European Medicines Agency and hopefully start Phase I trials in the UK next year.

“The preclinical results for the two candidates we’ve got are really compelling. They show very convincingly a difference in survival in mouse populations and that is very encouraging in terms of moving forward…I think there is a lot of excitement that this technology could really make a difference.”

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OVM uses recombinant overlapping peptides (ROPs) to design and develop therapeutic cancer vaccines and diagnostics, hoping to increase their speed and efficacy. These offer a new way to deliver immunotherapies, stimulating T cell immunity and forming a strong foundation for cancer vaccines and diagnostics. By activating the immune system to directly attack tumours, the treatment decreases the necessity for invasive treatments such as chemo or radiotherapy. The research team is led by Dr Shisong Jiang, who invented the novel platform technology of ROPs.

While other academic centres are developing cancer vaccines, OVM’s overlapping peptide approach would allow for a more straightforward regulatory pathway.

“This technology will allow us to make these cancer vaccines relatively inexpensively because it’s essentially one long protein rather than lots of short ones,” Coombs said. “The regulatory pathway is a lot simpler as there’s only one regulatory approval needed.”

OVM’s latest financing round marks the first time that a UK cancer vaccines firm has received funding from both South Korean and Chinese companies. Investors include existing shareholders in China and South Korean healthcare institution Cancer ROP. The latter specialises in genetic mapping and diagnosis, offering a field of expertise that OVM hopes to use in its development work.