- UK biotech Evox Therapeutics recently announced its £35.5 million Series B round, which will allow it to advance its pipeline of exosome-based therapeutics and technology platform.
- The Series B round included participation from investors such as Redmile Group, GV (formerly known as Google Ventures), Cowen Healthcare Investments, Oxford Sciences Innovation, Panacea Healthcare Venture, Borealis Ventures, Oxford University, and a small number of private investors.
- Dr Antonin de Fougerolles, Chief Executive Officer at Evox Therapeutics, speaks to LSX about developments at the company, as well as the potential of exosome technology in rare diseases and beyond.
In September 2018, Evox Therapeutics announced that it had raised £35.5 million from new and existing investors in its Series B round. The Oxford-based biotech is developing exosome-based therapeutics, working to harness the natural delivery capabilities of extracellular vesicles in order to deliver drugs to areas that are usually inaccessible.
“What we’ve done at Evox is come up with ways to engineer exosomes, small vesicles that cells naturally produce, to contain drugs of choice. We can load these exosomes with proteins, with antibodies, with small molecules, and with nucleic acid-based drugs,” explains Dr Antonin de Fougerolles, Chief Executive Officer at Evox Therapeutics. “In doing so, we’re now able to get those drugs to cells and tissues they normally can’t get to. For example, we can deliver drugs across the blood-brain barrier or deliver proteins and antibodies in a functional way into the cell cytoplasm or, with nucleic acid-based drugs such as small interfering RNA, we can effectively deliver them to cells outside of the liver.”
The Series B round will enable the company to advance its lead programme towards the clinic. Evox Therapeutics’ proprietary assets focus on the treatment of rare diseases in areas of high unmet need, but it is also developing an exosome platform to explore the technology’s potential in treating other diseases. “While we’re concentrating our internal pipeline in the rare disease space, there are a lot of other applications so we’re continuing to build out the platform itself across a range of different drug modalities,” notes Fougerolles.
Expanded investor syndicate to support continued growth
The company’s Series B round was led by new investor Redmile Group, and GV (formerly known as Google Ventures), Cowen Healthcare Investments, Panacea Healthcare Venture, and Borealis Ventures also participated in the round, in addition to private investors and existing backers Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI) and Oxford University.
The latest finance raise follows a £10 million Series A investment from OSI in May 2016. Fougerolles says: “[OSI] have really put a lot of faith into us and what we’re building here. They’ve been extremely good partners as we build out this company and we’re very pleased that they invested again in the Series B.”
In addition to the support of OSI, the company was keen to bring on board new investors with a complementary range of skillsets. For de Fougerolles, the participation of the aforementioned new investors in the company’s £35.5 million Series B round is testament to the potential transformational nature of exosome-based therapeutics. “If you think about being able to get drugs across the blood-brain barrier, as just one example, being able to do that would be a huge transformational step forward,” he adds.
Exploiting exosome technology in rare diseases and beyond
Laying the groundwork for the ongoing growth of the company, Evox Therapeutics moved into a new 5,800 ft2 office and laboratory space at The Oxford Science Park in April 2018. This includes state-of-the-art laboratories with cleanroom capabilities and a tissue culture and process development laboratory. The move equips the company with the facilities to undertake the R&D work and preparations necessary to progress its lead programme towards first-in-man studies, a key objective for the year ahead. “Over the next 12 months, we’re going to advance our lead programme towards the clinic and continue to work on and expand the utility and breadth of what the platform can do,” says Fougerolles.
Evox Therapeutics also hopes to forge partnerships to fully exploit its exosome technology in other indications. It has already established collaborations with two top-tier pharmaceutical companies. The first, with an undisclosed partner, focuses on delivering small molecules across the blood-brain barrier, and the second is a research collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim investigating the delivery of RNAs. “Both [collaborations] are good illustrations of the ability of our platform to enable drugs to fulfil their potential in terms of being able to get them to the site of disease,” notes Fougerolles.
The agreement with Boehringer Ingelheim, announced in December 2017, sees the companies conduct in vitro and in vivo research using Evox Therapeutics’ exosome technology. It provides Boehringer Ingelheim with the option to negotiate a licence agreement to continue to develop RNA drug candidates utilising exosome technology. The collaboration forms part of the pharma company’s Research Beyond Borders Initiative, which focuses on emerging science and technologies inside and outside its core therapeutic areas.
Both its external partnerships and internal pipeline feed into Evox Therapeutics’ vision of creating transformative medicines that benefit patients. “That’s what our goal has always been,” says Fougerolles. “We think this platform has the potential to be truly transformational across a variety of diseases. We look forward to being able to advance those medicines, particularly from our own pipeline perspective in the rare disease space where there are a large number of very debilitating, life-threatening diseases for which there are still very few options for patients.”
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