There’s a new player in the battle against viral disease. Icosavax, a new company launched under $51 million in investments led by Qiming Venture Partners USA, along with Sanofi Ventures, NanoDimension, and Adams Street Partners, is on its way to developing safe, effective vaccines to fight infectious diseases, address medical needs, and, ultimately, help reduce healthcare costs all around.
The Seattle-based company has developed a virus-like particle technology at the Washington School of Medicine’s Institute for Protein Design (IPD), which can display antigens that closely resemble viruses but with a key differentiation: they don’t have any genetic material, so they are non-infectious and can provide a safer alternative to live or other vaccines typically used, specifically when it comes to treating respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a major cause of viral pneumonia in older adults.
RSV can also affect newborns and children up to the age of three and is the leading cause of pneumonia in babies under a year old in the U.S., and unfortunately there’s currently no FDA-approved to treat RSV on the market. Icosavax wants to change that and is using the recent funding to advance its first vaccine candidate, IVX-121 (currently licensed from the National Institute of Health) to treat the disease through more clinical studies. So far, its preclinical trials have shown that the vaccine could help increase the protective immunogenicity of RSV.
An effective vaccine that could treat RSV could impact the lives of millions of people worldwide.“Icosavax’s vaccine technology solves the problem of constructing and manufacturing VLPs displaying complex antigens by utilizing computationally designed proteins that separate the folding of individual protein subunits from the assembly of the final macromolecular structure,” said Neil King, Ph.D, co-founder of Icosavax and researcher at IPD, in a company statement. “The individual proteins are expressed and purified using traditional recombinant technologies, and then self-assemble into VLPs when mixed together.”
In addition to King, the company has assembled a team of experts in viral research, including David Baker, director, IPD; Ralf Clemens, a leading expert with more than 30 years of experience in global vaccine development; Christian Mandl, who has led research and development of viral and bacterial vaccines; Jean-Paul Prieels, Ph.D., who previously served as a senior vice president of Research and Development at GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals; and Barney S. Graham, inventor of DS-Cav1, the RSV F antigen incorporated into IVX-121.