With €37.5 million ($41 million) investment and Novartis, Sanofi and Gensight alumni on their executive team, Vivet Therapeutics is all set for a strong entrance into the gene therapy field. This initial funding round for the new, European company was led by Swiss giant Novartis Venture Fund and Columbus Venture Partners with Roche Venture Fund, HealthCap, Kurma Partners and Ysios Capital also taking part.
Founded in Paris last year by Jens Kurth (formerly of Anokion and Novartis) and Jean-Philippe Combal (formerly of Gensight Biologics and Sanofi), Vivet Therapeutics also has a wholly-owned subsidiary based in Spain. Collaborations with Fundación para la Investigación Médica Aplicada, a not-for-profit foundation at the Centro de Investigación Medica Aplicada; the University of Navarra based in Pamplona, Spain; and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston yielded the company’s lead gene therapy program: VTX801.
VTX801 comprises of a modified adeno-associated virus vector which carries a truncated version of the ATP7B gene. This is intended to treat Wilson disease, a rare genetic disorder caused by a defective gene in liver cells encoding the ATP7B protein. Effects of the deficiency include organ damage, neurologic symptoms and potentially death. Vivet’s therapy will be applied to liver cells, and is thus projected to target the cause of the disease. It is towards developing this that Vivet’s latest backing will go and the company expects to initiate the first in human trials for Wilson disease by the end of 2018.
The funds will also be used by Vivet to develop gene therapy programs for other rare and inherited metabolic diseases, including progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis type 2 (PFIC2), progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis type 3 (PFIC3) and citrullinemia type I.
CEO and co-founder Combal commented: “Vivet is delighted to have attracted such a substantial investment from these high-profile life sciences investors. This fundraising reflects our shared excitement about the potential of our lead candidate VTX801 and our technology for generating further novel gene therapies targeting rare inherited metabolic diseases. Early results from preclinical studies with VTX801 are very promising, and we are now well funded to advance this candidate into the clinic, while developing our portfolio and technologies.’ Human trialling of VTX801 is expected to begin in 2018.