Formula Pharmaceuticals is raising $13 million in a series B financing round for a vaccine to be used during first remission for acute myeloid leukemia and other aggressive cancers.
The investment will be used to support the two Phase II clinical trialsof themulti-peptide immunotherapeutic at Memorial Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center that will take two years. Although median survival rates after chemotherapy range from a few months to two years, a Phase I study showed a survival benefit of 54 months when the vaccine was added to the standard of care.
To date, the Berwyn, Pennsylvania based company has raised $2 million. The founders have also invested their own money in the company. The company presented at the recent Impact 2011 Mis-Atlantic Venture Summit this week.
The vaccine would be classified as an orphan drug, treating a niche patient population of under 200,000.
If approved the vaccine would be the first on the market to keep Acute Myeloid Leukemia in remission, according to Dr. Giorgio Mosconi, a co-founder of Formula, was also senior vice president of business development at Vicuron Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) in 2005 and later acquired by Durata Therapeutics in 2009). Mosconi has also served as as European executive director for R&D anti-infectives and immunology at Bristol-Myers-Squibb (NYSE: BMS).
Formula’s pipeline also includes vaccines for elderly acute lymphocrytic leukemia, mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.
The challenge in fighting aggressive cancers with chemotherapy alone is that when the cancer returns the cancer cells are less sensitive to the chemotherapy.
“This is a forefront therapy for cancer treatment,” Mosconi said. “We believe we are approaching cancer treatment in a new way.”
Vaccines have been developed to fight other cancers, namely cervical cancer transmitted by the human papilomavirus. The HPV vaccine is available in the United States and Europe. Merck (NYSE:MRK) and GlaxoSmithKline(NYSE:GSK) manufacture HPV vaccines.