A biotech 12 years in the making has secured its largest financing yet, and it has ambitious plans for what the chief executive called a “David vs. Goliath” venture.
MinervaX, based out of Copenhagen, put out word bright and early Thursday that it secured €72 million in new funding via both equity financing and a loan. This is the biotech’s biggest financing since 2020, when Sanofi and Novo, among others, invested $57 million (€47.4 million at the time) in Series B funding. €50 million of the €72 million is coming through a loan from the European Investment Bank.
With very little funding since its spinout in 2010 — only about €20 million spent in its first ten years — the biotech turned an academic project out of Lund University in Sweden into a Phase II program. CEO Per Fischer tells Endpoints News that the company spent its first years maturing the science and doing more in animal models.
Thanks to new investors, the company has gone from a semi-virtual company with only five part-time employees to now employing over 20 staffers.
“We weren’t even kind of planning to raise this amount, but then, you know, you have to be opportunistic when the money presents itself; you have to kind of take it,” Fischer told Endpoints.
Fischer added the €72 million will last the company into the end of 2024 and noted the company has some big plans. MinervaX is aiming to include prep work for a Phase III trial, finishing and reading out Phase II data sometime next year and working with regulators. Fischer said the biotech has filed an IND with the FDA and already has PRIME status with the EMA.
The biotech’s focus is on a vaccine for GBS, also known as group B streptococcus. While GBS is generally harmless, it can cause stillbirth and serious infections leading to sepsis and meningitis for newborns.
Fischer also said MinervaX is doing a lot of follow-up protection studies, as medical need is high with no vaccine approved for GBS while incidence remains low. As such, large Phase III trials are necessary for a full efficacy study.
“Regulators are sort of coming around to people using correlates of protection, based on natural immunity. So if you actually analyze antibodies, that immunity in infants that become sick with this disease, and compare it to infants that do not become sick, you can see that infants — sick infants — have much lower antibody levels than those that don’t become sick,” Fischer noted.
The next step is to obtain a lot of samples for testing. Per Fischer, the target is 20-40,000 mother-infant pairs to get enough samples for that goal. And while that size is a lot, “obviously, it’s going to be a massive logistical challenge to run these trials,” Fischer conceded. However, trials that have that many subjects have already been done in Covid-19.
“The learnings from COVID, you know, has really paved the way for being able to do such trials,” Fischer added.
Aside from the €50 million loan, the other €22 million came from VC backers, including lead investors Trill Impact Ventures and Pureos Bioventures. Previous investors include Novo Holding’s REPAIR Impact Fund, Sunstone Life Science Ventures, LF Investment, Wellington Partners, Sanofi Ventures, Adjuvant Capital and Industrifonden.