Iowa’s NewLink Genetics raises $30M for cancer vaccines

The Ames, Iowa-based biopharmaceutical company is currently advancing four product candidates in human clinical trials.

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AMES, Iowa – Biopharmaceutical company NewLink Genetics has raised $30 million in funding to aid in its development of therapeutic cancer vaccines.

The company is currently advancing four product candidates in human clinical trials. Its HyperAcute immunotherapies for treatment of pancreatic cancer and non-small-cell lung cancer are in Phase 2 efficacy studies and a drug for melanoma is in the midst of a small, investigator-sponsored Phase 2 study. The company is also developing a small-molecule inhibitor of an enzyme that disarms components of the body’s immune system, which is in Phase 1 safety testing.

NewLink will use the funding to fund operations for two years and finance clinical studies for its pancreatic cancer drug, according to a Chief Financial Officer Gordon Link. The company raised nearly $20 million of the $30 million this year, Link said.

Link expects the pancreatic cancer drug to reach Phase 3 trials early next year, but commercialization is still “a number of years” away, he said.

The company hopes to take advantage of the promise of a booming market for therapeutic cancer vaccines, which stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells. While the Food and Drug Administration has approved two preventive cancer vaccines, it has not yet approved a therapeutic or treatment vaccine, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The “vast majority” of patients who undergo surgery for pancreatic cancer experience a recurrence of the disease within two years, Link said. The company’s drug is designed to improve survival rates and delay the disease’s return.

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NewLink’s investors include Iowa Capital Group, Ames Seed Capital, Chicagoland Investors, Midwest Oilseeds and NLG Advisors.

The 10-year-old company employs about 60 people.