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, 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.