Halifax based Immunovaccine‘s slogan is “Delivering Breakthrough Vaccines”. Look into Immunovaccine’s technology and you’ll quickly realize the accent in this phrase is clearly on the word delivering. Immunovaccine is based around the idea that the delivery method of vaccines may be of greater importance to their success than had previously been suspected by the medical community. The Company’s DepoVax™ platform has been shown to enhance efficacy with fewer doses. IMV has partnered with Pfizer Animal Health to develop enhanced cattle vaccines, and with Merck KGaA on an investigational therapeutic survivin-based cancer vaccine designed to target multiple solid tumours and hematological malignancies. Nick Waddell sat down with Dr. Randal Chase, President and CEO to discuss where the company is today.
How did Immunovaccine come to be? Where was the technology developed?
Immunovaccine got its start when the Federal government asked researchers at Dalhousie University to develop a contraceptive vaccine to control the seal population. The vaccine with its unique delivery system was so effective that, after one shot, 90% of seals were immunocontracepted for 10 years. It was the power and broad potential of this unique vaccine delivery platform that gave rise for launching Immunovaccine.
So the company was founded on animal vaccines but now is moving into humans – what are you planning to do with your animal business?
Our animal vaccines have proven effective and Pfizer is currently applying our vaccine delivery technology to design enhanced vaccines for livestock. Our plan is to leverage this asset by negotiating additional veterinary licensing agreements and apply these near term revenues to our human health business.
Where are you at with regards to human clinical trials?
Immunovaccine has two clinical stage vaccines in development. Our lead product is a therapeutic cancer vaccine called DPX-0907. It is in a Phase 1 human clinical trial and we plan to have interim safety data by year end. This clinical trial will finish mid 2011. And our second vaccine is DPX-Survivac.
And your deal with Merck, what about that?
We have a powerful vaccine delivery technology that caught Merck’s attention and enabled us to negotiate a deal to acquire exclusive worldwide rights to commercialize their survivin-based vaccine. This vaccine has already been through a Phase 1 clinical trial and our plan is to formulate it with our delivery technology to design DPX-Survivac, a vaccine for ovarian cancer.
Your technology is a delivery method, which seems to have a large variety of applications. Do you feel the diversity of this multi-pronged approach provides a degree of safety for investors, that the company is not a “one shot” deal?
Our DepoVax™ vaccine delivery technology has broad potential, in fact we haven’t found a vaccine yet that we cannot improve. As a result, we have signed more than a dozen research agreements. Looking ahead, we’re confident that the research collaborations will grow into commercial licenses and generate revenues for the company and its shareholders.
Some are calling this the “golden age” for vaccines – why is that?
Today, we have genetic engineering capabilities combined with new vaccine delivery technologies that enable us to design vaccines capable of targeting diseases that have evaded us in the past. These new vaccines are capable of generating targeted and effective immune responses that command premium pricing in the marketplace.
How is the financial health of Immunovaccine? Do you have enough cash in the bank to get you to profitability?
Immunovaccine is an early stage company but we are strongly positioned to fund our clinical strategy and business development programs. We have $11.7M of cash on hand to complete our DPX-0907 Phase I clinical trial by mid-2011 and we will continue to advance DPX-Survivac to the end of a Phase 1 trial. Our plan is to sign additional licensing agreements that generate near term revenues and, over the longer term, we will license out or auction off one of our premium vaccines at an appropriate time.