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I-O startup Geneos raises $10.5M for neoantigen drugs

Cancer in newspaper clipping

Inovio Pharma spinout Geneos Therapeutics has closed a $10.5 million first-round financing that will help launch its R&D in neoantigen-targeting cancer immunotherapies.

The biotech was first set up as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Inovio in August 2016 to move ahead with applying a DNA immunotherapy technology platform to the development of patient-specific neoantigen therapies.

At the time, Inovio said Geneos’ platform is “well suited for advancing individualized therapies due to its rapid product design and manufacturing benefits, ability to combine multiple neoantigens into formulations, and generation of potent killer T cell responses that are needed to drive clinical efficacy.”

The series A—led by Santé Ventures and joined by Inovio—means that the Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania-based biotech has now officially launched as a standalone company, and should have the financial backing needed to take its first candidate through proof-of-concept studies.

Geneos’ CEO Niranjan Sardesai, Ph.D., who was previously chief operating officer of the company as well as a former R&D senior vice president at Inovio, says the new company “holds the potential to become the leader in the development of personalized cancer immunotherapies.”

Interest in neoantigens—the mutations and genomic changes that accumulate as tumors develop that distinguish malignant from healthy cells—have become a hot topic in biopharma R&D. Companies like Neon Therapeutics and BioNTech have reported promising early-stage results with neoantigen vaccine candidates.

Geneos’ platform is based on licenses to Inovia’s SynCon DNA sequence design platform and Cellectra, an electroporation technology to deliver the DNA sequences into cells.

The biotech has been working with the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia to put the platform through its paces, and earlier this year published a paper in the journal Cancer Immunology Research, describing how it was used to develop neoantigen vaccines.

The study showed that it could create vaccines that stimulate a both a CD4+ response and importantly a CD8+ tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte response in animal models. The CD8+ response is thought to be a critical component of anti-tumor activity for neoantigen vaccines.

“In addition, Geneos cancer fighting treatments can be designed in days instead of months or years,” says Sardesai.

The financing will allow the company to establish its operations and complete Investigational New Drug (IND) activities toward the initiation of first-in-human clinical trials.