Startups, BioPharma

Gene therapy for HIV: Arizona startup Calimmune gets $15M Series B

The startup’s gene therapy for HIV and AIDS spins out of the work from Nobel Laureate David Baltimore at CalTech. It’s using the funding to further Phase I/II clinical trials.

Arizona startup Calimmune just closed out a $15 million Series B for its gene therapy that’s meant to help control HIV halt its progression into AIDS. The round was led by a large (unnamed) pharmaceutical strategic investor, Calimmune said in a statement.

The funding will go towards ongoing Phase I/II trials HIV/AIDS clinical trials, as well as further research programs and general corporate operations.

Calimmune says its gene therapy has a dual approach: It’s designed to reduce the production of CCR5 – a white blood cell surface protein that helps HIV infect cells. It also prevents viral fusion – thereby not allowing HIV to enter the cell. Calimmune says these mechanisms were effective in preclinical study.

The clinical trials involve infusing HIV patients’ own blood stem cells, as well as mature T cells, that have been treated with Cal-1 – Calimmune’s lead gene therapy agent. The trials are initially being conducted at Quest Clinical Research in San Francisco and the UCLA CARE Center.

“Over the past several decades, HIV/AIDS has shifted from a deadly disease to one that can largely be managed with medication,” Calimmune CEO Louis Breton said in the statement. “The next logical step in the evolution of HIV/AIDS patient care is finding a cure by enhancing the body’s own defenses.”

The company was formed in 2006, spun out of the research of Nobel Laureate David Baltimore at CalTech, as well as researchers at the Salk Institute and UCLA.