University of Helsinki sold cancer and infectious disease vaccination platform called PeptiBAC to Valo Therapeutics

Potential for regional tuberculosis vaccines, novel personalized cancer vaccines, and improving checkpoint inhibition therapy

University of Helsinki and a spinout-company from the University of Helsinki, Valo Therapeutics Limited (Valo Tx), announced today that Valo Tx acquires the intellectual property rights for the proprietary ´PeptiBAC´technology from the University of Helsinki, Finland. Valo Tx is the developer of novel, adaptable immunotherapy platforms for cancer and infectious diseases. University of Helsinki owns 21% of Valo Tx.

PeptiBAC uses the BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guèrin) vaccine as a backbone for delivery of disease specific peptides. The technology has preventative potential in infectious diseases, specifically tuberculosis (TB, caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB)), as well therapeutic potential in cancer. The BGC vaccine, one of the earliest immunotherapies, has been widely used globally for decades. It is safe and well tolerated, with over 100m doses dispensed a year. PeptiBAC builds on this immunotherapy heritage to drive a robust T cell immune response against new strains of TB by targeting multiple disease-specific antigens simultaneously.

In cancer, there is applicability in a broad range of tumour types

In cancer, there is applicability in a broad range of tumour types. Valo Tx has data from a mouse model of melanoma, showing that PeptiBAC elicits anti-tumour effects and induces tumour specific CD8+ effector T cells. In a separate mouse melanoma model, the company has shown that PeptiBAC increases anti-tumour response rates in combination with checkpoint inhibition therapy.

The company and the University of Helsinki’s ImmunoViroTherapy lab, led by Professor Vincenzo Cerullo, have recently published a paper on PeptiBAC in the context of cancer vaccination, which shows how attaching tumour-specific peptides onto the mycobacterial outer membrane can induce strong systemic and intratumoural T cell-specific immune responses towards the attached tumour antigens.

Tuberculosis is still a significant global health problem, including being the leading cause of death in Africa

Paul Higham, CEO of Valo Tx, commented, “We have a strong and enduring innovation partnership with the University of Helsinki, based on our PeptiCRAd and PeptiENV technologies. Just like our PeptiVAX technology, which is rapidly adaptable to the emergence of new strains of Coronavirus, the PeptiBAC technology can be used against strains of TB for which the current vaccine offers limited protection. TB is still a significant global health problem, including being the leading cause of death in Africa, and is often a comorbidity with HIV. PeptiBAC technology also allows us to further expand into different cancer indications by leveraging our innovative technology platforms and in collaboration with partners. We will identify novel immunogenic peptides from tumors and from conserved proteins in infectious diseases to deliver better global health outcomes.”

Professor Vincenzo Cerullo said “The PeptiBAC technology, developed at the University of Helsinki, represents a unique antigen delivery platform for anti-infective vaccination, and for the development of cancer immunotherapeutics.”

Helsinki Innovation Services Ltd, an innovation and commercialisation company owned by the University of Helsinki, managed the patent protection of the intellectual property rights for PeptiBAC and commercial negotiations with Valo Tx.

According to the WHO, TB remains a major global issue, with 1.4 million dying from it in 2019 (including 208 000 people with HIV), and infection with multiple strains, some of which can be resistant to antibiotics, makes it very hard to treat. TB is present in all countries and age groups but is curable and preventable. Ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is among the health targets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. With PeptiBAC, for TB, the approach would be to create region specific vaccines, such as for Africa and Asia, active against more than one of the seven to nine prevalent circulating strains, by using peptides from multiple MTB lineages.

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