IO Biotech raises $155m to develop breakthrough cancer vaccine

IO Biotech, an oncology specialist formed and backed by Denmark’s Novo Holdings, has raised €127 million ($155 million) to further develop its cancer vaccine technology that has boosted efficacy of PD-1 immunotherapy in early trials.

The Series B fundraiser follows the FDA’s decision to grant Breakthrough Therapy designation last month for a combination of its lead immune-oncology therapies IO102 and IO103, with anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibodies for patients with metastatic melanoma.

IO Biotech intends to use the proceeds from the financing to advance clinical trials for its early and late-stage immune-oncology programs, including a large randomised trial for the IO102 and IO103 with anti-PD-1 combination in metastatic melanoma.

IO102 and IO103 are cancer first-in-class vaccines based on IO Biotech’s proprietary T-win technology platform.

The company said this enables the identification of compounds with a dual mechanism of action targeting and killing immunosuppressive cells and tumour cells while indirectly activating other T-effectors.

They are designed to engage and activate IDO and PD-L1 specific human T-cells, which leads to strong anti-tumour responses without adding additional safety concern.

The FDA’s decision to grant breakthrough therapy designation was based on data from the MM1636 phase 1/2 clinical trial of 30 patients with metastatic melanoma receiving IO102, IO103 and anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibodies.

According to the data recently presented in a late-breaking abstract at the European Society for Medical Oncology  Virtual Congress 2020, the combination of IO102 and IO103 vaccines and nivolumab was shown to be safe with encouraging early efficacy data.

An overall response rate (ORR) of 79% was reached and 45% of patients achieved a complete response (CR), or complete disappearance of their tumours. Vaccine specific T-cells were located in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and at the tumour site.

The financing round was led by HBM Healthcare Investments with the participation of existing investors Novo Seeds, Lundbeckfonden Emerge and Sunstone Life Science Ventures.

Other new investors joining the round included Vivo Capital, Kurma Partners, Avoro Capital, RA Capital, Samsara Biocapital, Idinvest Partners (Subsidiary of Eurazeo), PFM Health Sciences, Soleus Capital, Eir Ventures and Serrado Capital.

IO biotech was created and launched by Novo Seeds in 2015, which is the investment arm of Novo Holdings, a private company wholly owned by the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

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