MADISON, Wis--(BUSINESS WIRE)--FluGen Inc., a biotechnology company developing a novel "universal" influenza vaccine, has completed a $12 million Series A financing. Venture Investors LLC, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), the State of Wisconsin Investment Board, and other new investors participated in this first institutional financing of the company, along with many of FluGen's existing investors led by Knox LLC.
Funds raised will support the continued development of FluGen's lead universal influenza vaccine candidate, REDEE FLU ™, including completion of an initial human clinical trial and the preparation of a quadrivalent vaccine candidate. REDEE FLU is a single replication live influenza virus vaccine that can infect cells, express influenza RNA and proteins, but does not produce any new virus. REDEE FLU is safe, induces potent immune responses and protects against mismatched influenza strains in multiple preclinical animal models. Current influenza vaccines fall short in their ability to protect against influenza in the elderly and the ability to protect against influenza caused by strains that have mutated, or “drifted,” from those contained in the yearly vaccine. Last year’s influenza outbreak in the U. S. was caused by such a “drifted” strain, leading to low vaccine efficacy, record numbers of hospitalizations, particularly of the elderly, and epidemic numbers of deaths.
"FluGen has made significant progress in the development of our REDEE FLU influenza vaccine candidate," said Paul V. Radspinner, Chief Executive Officer at FluGen. "This financing provides the resources necessary to complete preclinical testing, and to assess the safety and immune responses induced by REDEE FLU in a Phase 1 clinical trial of the vaccine."
The Company also announced the addition of Dan Stinchcomb, Ph.D. and Mr. C. Boyd Clarke as independent directors. Dr. Stinchcomb was co-founder and CEO of Inviragen, a privately held vaccine company which developed vaccines for dengue fever, hand, foot and mouth disease, and chikungunya. Inviragen was purchased by Takeda Vaccines in 2013 for $250 million. Dr. Stinchcomb will join the Board of Directors as Executive Chairman, and brings a wealth of vaccine development experience to the company. Mr. Clarke, a veteran vaccine executive with both private and public biotechnology companies, is the former Chairman and CEO of Aviron, the company which originally developed FluMist®, and was Executive Chair at Ligocyte, Inc. Mr. Clarke oversaw the sale of Aviron to MedImmune in 2001 for $1.5 billion, and the sale of Ligocyte to Takeda Vaccines in 2012.
"Venture Investors has followed the development of FluGen’s novel approach to developing a universal flu vaccine, and we have always been impressed by the science,” commented Paul Weiss, Ph.D., Managing Director at Venture Investors. “As FluGen prepares to start both clinical trials and commercialization/partnering activities, and the addition of Dr. Stinchcomb, with whom we worked at Inviragen, and Mr. Clarke to the board, makes this an opportune time for us to lead this syndicated financing.”
For inquiries, contact Paul V. Radspinner, CEO: +1.608.442.6561
Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses. The influenza virus is transmitted easily from person to person via droplets and small particles produced when infected people cough or sneeze. Influenza tends to spread rapidly in seasonal epidemics. Infection usually lasts for about a week, and is characterized by sudden onset of high fever, aching muscles, headache and severe malaise, non-productive cough, sore throat and rhinitis. Some people are at high risk for serious flu complications, including the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions such as asthma, chronic lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, blood, kidney or lung disorders, or weakened immune systems. Worldwide, it is estimated that 3 to 5 million cases of severe influenza and 250,000 to 500,000 influenza-related deaths occur every year.
About FluGen, Inc.
FluGen, Inc. is a privately held biotechnology company founded in 2005 and based in Madison, WI. The company has been developing novel influenza vaccine technology first invented at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the laboratories of Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka and Dr. Gabriele Neumann, and exclusively licensed to FluGen by WARF. The REDEE FLU influenza vaccine contains mutations in the M2 gene of the virus. The mutated virus can infect cells, express the entire spectrum of influenza RNA and proteins, yet fails to produce any infectious virus particles. Thus, the vaccine does not shed infectious virus and does not cause any pathological signs of infection. In multiple animal models, REDEE FLU is safe yet induces robust innate, antibody and cellular immune responses that can protect against “drifted” or even mismatched influenza strains. The Company is developing REDEE FLU to address two unmet needs in the prevention of human influenza: better protection against influenza in the elderly and better protection against drifted influenza strains that can cause influenza epidemics. More information is available at www.flugen.com.
About Knox, LLC
Knox LLC is an investment company established by Frederick J. Mancheski, a graduate and longtime supporter of the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Mr. Mancheski has been an investor and champion for companies like FluGen which are pursuing important products and ideas with worldwide impact.
About Venture Investors
Venture Investors was founded in 1982 and is one of the leading venture capital firms in the Midwest. Venture Investors focus on making seed and early stage healthcare and technology investments. The firm is currently investing out of its fifth fund and has over $200 million under management. Venture Investors is based in Madison, Wisconsin, an entrepreneurial hub and home to one of the nation’s largest research institutions, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The firm has a second office in Ann Arbor, Michigan, located near the University of Michigan, another of the largest research institutions in the country. Venture Investors is a leader in identifying and investing in university technology transfer start-ups throughout the Midwest. For additional information on Venture Investors, visit www.ventureinvestors.com.
The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) helps steward the cycle of research, discovery, commercialization and investment for the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Founded in 1925 as an independent, nonprofit foundation, WARF manages more than 1,600 active patents and an endowment of $2.6 billion as it funds university research, obtains patents for campus discoveries, and licenses inventions to industry. For more information on WARF, visit www.warf.org.