New company of former Okairos founders bags €12 million

17.05.2016 14:55

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Riccardo Cortese, CEO Nouscom

Basel-based Nouscom announced today that it has closed a EUR 12 million Series A financing co-led by LSP and Versant Ventures. The funds will be used to support discovery and development of personalized cancer vaccines and tumor selective oncolytic viruses.

The Founders of Nouscom are a well established team that has worked together for many years in previous successful enterprises, including IRBM/Merck and Okairos, and are veterans in the field of oncolytic and genetic vaccines. The team includes the former CEO and CSO of Okairos, Riccardo Cortese (picture above) and Alfredo Nicosia. Okairos was acquired by GSK for EUR250 million in cash in 2013.

“The Nouscom platform offers an innovative approach to cancer vaccines that is versatile, powerful and scalable,” said Guido Magni, Partner at Versant Ventures. “Further, since we backed this same team at Okairos, we know the members’ skill level, dedication and ability to build a successful company.”

For decades, cancer vaccines have been based on naturally occurring proteins that are more expressed in tumor cells than in normal cells. This approach, based on self antigens, has reached a stage of stagnation, with very modest results in numerous clinical trials.

New developments in DNA and RNA sequencing technologies now allow affordable, rapid and robust determination of the exact sequence of the genome of tumors. From a small cancer biopsy one can now discover many mutations leading to changes in the sequence of proteins, thus generating neoantigens that are perceived as non self and thus have the potential to circumvent tolerance and to engage an intact naïve T cell repertoire. Neoantigens are therefore ideally suited for the design of cancer vaccines. Because mutations in tumors are very frequent, but differ from patient to patient, Nouscom needs to produce for each patient its own personalized epitope based vaccine. Rooted in the extensive experience the team have furthermore developed a proprietary miniaturized manufacturing process suited for rapid, efficient and parallel production of patient-specific vaccines. Nouscon’s proprietary Adeno vectors have a “high capacity”, potentially encoding for over 100 neoantigens into a single vector, and they induce long lasting central and effector memory T-cells, which are associated with longer survival when found in tumor infiltrates.

In its second development program, Nouscom scientists have developed a next generation of oncolytic viruses, encoding for a variety of immunomodulators and capable of infecting and killing cancer cells with the specificity of antibodies while not infecting normal cell.

Nouscom is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland and has operations in Rome.

About LSP
LSP (Life Sciences Partners) is a leading independent European investment firm, providing financing for private and public life-science companies. Since the late 1980s, LSP’s management has invested in a large number of highly innovative enterprises, many of which have grown to become leaders of the global life-science industry. With over EUR 1 billion of investment capital raised to date and offices in Amsterdam, Munich and Boston, LSP is one of Europe’s largest and most experienced specialist life-science investors. 

About Versant Ventures
Versant Ventures is a leading global healthcare investment firm committed to helping exceptional entrepreneurs build the next generation of great healthcare companies. The firm invests across the healthcare sector and at all stages of company development, with an emphasis on the discovery and development of novel therapeutics. With $1.9 billion under management and offices in North America and Europe, Versant has built a team with deep investment, operating, and scientific expertise that enables a hands-on approach to company building. Since the firm’s founding in 1999, nearly 50 Versant companies have achieved successful acquisitions or IPOs.


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