Leiden, the Netherlands, 16 October 2019 - Amarna Therapeutics, a privately held biotechnology company developing a next-generation SV40-based gene delivery vector platform named SVac that promises to transform gene-replacement and immunotherapy across many disease areas, today announced that it has raised €10 million. The round was led by Flerie Invest AB, a Swedish investment company with another substantial contribution coming from an innovation credit from the “Netherlands Enterprise Agency” (RVO.nl) and existing shareholder Pim Berger. The Company plans to use this funding to progress development of its SVac platform towards a first in man clinical study to commence in two to three years from now.
In addition to raising new funds, Amarna has recruited a new Supervisory Board to help underpin this new ‘clinical’ phase of its growth and development. Thomas Eldered has been appointed as Supervisory Board Chairman. Bernhard Kirschbaum, Maarten de Chateau, Ted Fjällman, Pim Berger and Guillaume Jetten have also joined the Supervisory Board (see biographies at the end of the release).
Ben van Leent, CEO of Amarna said: “We are very happy to have attracted such strong investors. This significant new funding allows Amarna to accelerate the development of SVac and our lead product AMA001, and to help us achieve our ultimate goal: to become a leading global gene therapy player”. “We would like to extend a warm welcome to all of the members of our new Supervisory Board, led by the outstanding healthcare and biotech pioneer Thomas Eldered. They bring many years of in-depth life science knowledge and entrepreneurship to Amarna”.
Thomas Eldered, new Chairman of Amarna’s Supervisory Board, commented: “I’m very much looking forward to working at Amarna. Its viral gene delivery vector platform has the potential to make major medical breakthroughs possible, so that patients can be actually cured of “significant” diseases for which, to date, effective treatment have not become available. Together with my highly qualified and experienced colleagues in our new Supervisory Board, I’m fully committed to help progress Amarna into the next important clinical stages of development of its groundbreaking technology”.
SV40 Vectors are non-immunogenic in humans
Viral gene delivery vectors that are currently used for in vivo gene therapy are ineffective because the particles are instable upon injection (in the case of lentiviral vectors) or because the particles are immunogenic in humans (in the case of AAV vectors). Gene delivery vectors derived from the macaque polyomavirus Simian Virus 40 (SV40) are an attractive alternative to lentiviral and AAV vectors for clinical gene therapy. Humans can be considered naïve to SV40 since the virus only replicates in macaques, where it causes symptomless infections. Replication-defective SV40 vectors are non-immunogenic in humans and moreover, have the capacity to induce immune tolerance to the transgene products. SV40 vectors therefore hold a great potential for clinical applications treating genetic disorders, cancer, allergies and degenerative/inflammatory conditions such as neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and many more.
Amarna’s SVac platform: the benefits
Amarna has genetically engineered the SV40 genome used for the production of vector particles and in parallel generated a novel Vero-based packaging cell line named SuperVero that produces similar numbers of vector particles to the currently used packaging cell lines but without contaminating wild type SV40 particles. Since SVac is safe, highly efficient, non-immunogenic in humans and vector particles can be cost effectively produced in SuperVero cells, Amarna’s vector platform paves the way to clinically evaluate a whole new generation of SVac-based therapeutics for today’s major diseases.
New Supervisory Board member biographies
Thomas Eldered received a graduate degree from Linköping Institute of Technology and founded Swedish listed pharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing company Recipharm AB. Presently, Thomas is Chief Executive Officer at Recipharm AB and at the Board of several companies including Kahr Medical Ltd, Provell Pharmaceuticals LLC, and Sixera Pharma AB.
Dr. Bernhard Kirschbaum studied biochemistry and physiological chemistry at the University of Konstanz and received his PhD in 1989. He moved on to work at the Rockefeller University and the Pasteur Institute before making a career in the pharmaceutical industry where he covered a broad range of technological and disease areas. In his most recent position, Bernhard served as head of Global Research and Early Development at Merck Serono where he was a member of the board. Currently he holds further Supervisory Board and SAB positions at Omeicos, Redx, FutuRx, Enlivex, KAHR and BioMedx.
Dr. Maarten de Château is Chief Executive Officer at Swedish biotech Sixera Pharma and Buzzard Pharmaceuticals, focusing on the development of drugs that restore the balance in diseased skin and cancer respectively. Maarten has extensive experience in pharmaceutical clinical development at Sanofi and Swedish Orphan Biovitrum (Sobi). Prior to that he worked as a financial analyst at two investment banks and conducted basic research at Lund University and Harvard Medical School. Maarten was the founder and CEO of Cormorant Pharmaceuticals, leading the development of an immune-oncology project. Cormorant was acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2016.
Dr. Ted Fjällman is the CEO of Prokarium, a London-based biotech, focusing on targeted oral vaccines and microbial immunotherapy. Ted has worked for clinical research and strategy consulting firms and built two early-stage companies. Ted holds a PhD from the University of Guelph, Canada, and has been recognized as a leader in biotechnology under the Sloan Foundation funded Synthetic Biology Leadership Accelerator Program (LEAP). He is a member of the international Bacterial Vaccines Network (BactiVac) management board, as well as an active member in the UK Bio-Industry Association (BIA).
Pim Berger is CEO and co-founder of Dutch IT company Schuberg Philis and one of Amarna’s pioneering informal investors for over 10 years. He was managing director Netherlands of SiteSmith Inc., a US-based Internet infrastructure management services company. In 2000 SiteSmith Inc. was acquired by Metromedia Fiber Network Inc. (MFN) in a transaction valued at approximately $1.4 billion. Pim became Senior Vice President of MFN’s European Region. In a management buyout by Pim and two partners in 2003 the Benelux subsidiary of MFN Inc. became Schuberg Philis. Before this, Pim held several senior executive positions at Dutch IT companies Pink Elephant and PinkRoccade (now part of KPN). He holds a master’s degree in computer engineering and economics from the Hogeschool IJsselland.
Guillaume Jetten is the CFO of Netherlands based MercachemSyncom, a leading European mid-sized contract research organization. Guillaume has been working in the healthcare industry for most of his career. He held positions at Merck, Sharpe & Dohme, and served as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Wolters Kluwer Health. He also worked as CFO for Galapagos between 2009 and 2014. Guillaume holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of Maastricht and is a Certified Registered Accountant.