Redbiotec plans to close CHF 9m Series A round this year – CEO

15 May 2020 - 08:43 am UTC

by Ketaki Gokhale in Paris

Redbiotec, the Swiss developer of a therapeutic vaccine for genital herpes, is planning to close a CHF 9m Series A round this year, CEO Christian Schaub told Mergermarket.

 

The Zurich-based company will use the proceeds to advance its genital herpes (HSV-2) immunotherapy program into Phase I/IIa clinical studies, he said. It is seeking VCs and family offices interested in an investment with a relatively short horizon, since the company is aiming to sell the asset to one of the world’s large vaccine manufacturers once Phase IIa data is ready in approximately three and a half years, he added. The HSV-2 program will likely be spun out into a separate unit in the next year and a half, before it enters clinical trials, he said.

 

Redbiotec is simultaneously looking for co-development partners as an alternate scenario for its HSV-2 program, aiming to license the asset in the preclinical stage or Phase I, Schaub said.

 

The company’s HSV-2 asset could be worth more than USD 200m if it shows positive Phase IIa data, Schaub said. He cited a high unmet medical need for effective HSV-2 treatment given that existing antiviral pills cannot fully control the disease. Approximately 500m people globally suffer from the disease, according to a company presentation.

 

The company has already seen interest from pharma companies in its HSV-2 immunotherapy program, and expects more companies to show interest once it has Phase I clinical data.

 

Redbiotec’s cash burn rate is approximately CHF 2m-CHF 3m annually, a spokesperson said via email. To date, the company has raised more than CHF 20m from investors including Swiss VC RedalpineZuercher Kantonalbank and a number of early stage VCs, family offices and private investors, Schaub said. That amount includes funding for the human cytomegalovirus business that Redbiotec spun off and sold to Pfizer in 2014. 

 

Vischer is Redbiotec’s legal advisor and the company is constantly evaluating additional external advisors, a spokesperson said by email.

 

Redbiotec has experienced a “small” slowdown in its research due to the coronavirus pandemic, Schaub said. The company has been developing a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine platform, which it aims to use for rapid response to future global outbreaks and vaccine needs, he said. He said it was too early to share specific details about the vaccine development plan.

 

The company initiated its HSV-2 program in 2015, aiming to create a therapeutic vaccine that would reduce the severity and viral shedding of a genital herpes infection. Redbiotec identified two vaccine candidates that showed effectiveness in animal models, including a 90% reduction in outbreak severity. The immunotherapies also have the potential to prevent infection in healthy populations, or as prophylactics, according to the presentation. 

 

Redbiotec had a “very strong competitor” in Genocea Biosciences, Schaub said. The US-based company had worked on a genital herpes immunotherapy “with a similar rationale” to Redbiotec, he said, until deciding to abandon it in 2017 and redirected its efforts on cancer vaccines.



For the last three years the company has also been working on BRISPR, a proprietary bacteria platform technology that enables RNA and protein delivery for cancer and gene therapies. The platform’s lead asset RONC1 against pancreatic cancer is being tested in animal models, he said. Redbiotec is aiming to sell the platform while the candidates are still in the pre-clinical phase in the next 18 months to pharmaceutical company with an oncology program, Schaub said.



Similar pre-clinical deals have had up-front payments ranging from the “high double-digit millions to beyond USD 100m”, as well as milestone payments and royalties on future revenues, he said, declining to share specific valuation figures for the asset.



Other companies working on bacteria-based platforms are US-based Synlogic and Swiss biotech T3 Pharmaceuticals, he said. T3 Pharmaceuticals last year closed a CHF 12m funding round from investors including the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund.



The company is a spin out from ETH Zurich and was founded in 2006.