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VitamFero adds further management expertise as vaccines move closer to realization


Sep 29, 2017 - Animal Pharm
By Joseph Harvey
Animal Pharm
September 29, 2017


French biotechnology company VitamFero has deepened its immunotherapy know-how by appointing Jean-Loup Romet-Lemonne to the role of executive chairman.

The Angers-headquartered company is building management team to propel its anti-infective treatments towards commercialization.

Dr Romet-Lemonne has served as a non-executive director of the company since 2012. However, he has not taken a back seat at the company and has instead been active in sourcing VitamFero's next stages of financing. Dr Romet-Lemonne provided the company's presentation at the recent Kansas City Animal Health Corridor Investment Forum.

He told attendees VitamFero is currently looking to raise approximately $14 million. These funds will not only help the business complete proof-of-concept and formulation work but also secure licensing partners. This would be the company's fourth stage of funding. To date, it has secured $12.6m in financing. The company told Animal Pharm this amount combines approximately 50% of dilutive investments, plus 50% of non-dilutive financing such as grants, loans, tax credit and turnover.

A history of scientific and financial success

Dr Romet-Lemonne's history in the immunotherapy sector began when he worked at the François-Rabelais University in Tours as part of the team of Professor Philippe Maupas, who developed the first viral hepatitis B vaccine. Following this he moved to Harvard University in Boston.

As well as his scientific background, VitamFero will benefit from Dr Romet-Lemonne's acumen in building successful biotechnology firms.

In 1991, he founded the first French biotech firm focused on cancer immunotherapy – Immuno-Designed Molecules (IDM), which was based in Paris. Dr Romet-Lemonne was at the helm of this business for 17 years. During this time, he signed a significant €600m ($707m) partnership deal with Sanofi and raised over €150m for IDM. Several funding rounds were supported by Sofinnova, a leading European venture capital firm.

Then, Dr Romet-Lemonne floated IDM on the Nasdaq in 2005. His company was acquired by Takeda Oncology US in 2009 after it commercialized the first immunotherapy product for treating bone cancer in children.

After these successes, Dr Romet-Lemonne worked in New York as a consultant specializing in international development, immunotherapy and cell therapy. As well as his role at VitamFero, he sits on the boards of three human biotechnology companies.

Dr Romet-Lemonne said: "The WHO, the Pasteur Institute and all the world's governments agree that antibiotic resistance and the risk of viral pandemics are two major threats for the health of our planet's population. VitamFero, with its immunotherapy platform, is proposing a very innovative angle for attacking these threats by preventing infections in large-scale farms.

"This is a fascinating approach that I feel very honored to be able to contribute towards by bringing my experience as an immunologist and entrepreneur. I am also teaming up again with Pascal Breton, who I had the pleasure to work with at IDM in the past few years, so I am confident that together, with the team that he has put in place, we are going to be working effectively to ensure VitamFero's success."

In February, the company added Dr Sophie Barreteau as its research director.

Product launches expected in 2020 and 2021

The firm's patented technologies are based on non-virulent live vectors expressing genes coding for selected relevant proteins for vaccine development. VitamFero has five products in clinical development, including two vaccines – one to prevent ovine toxoplasmosis and the other for bovine neosporosis.

The vaccine for ovine toxoplasmosis is expected to initially be launched in New Zealand – the largest target market – in 2020. VitamFero believes the global market for the vaccine is $30m. The firm's vaccine against bovine neosporosis is expected to follow in 2021 and targets a market estimated to be around $200m.

The company is also targeting bovine cryptosporidiosis neonatal prophylactics – a target market of between $100-200m. The commercial launch is pencilled in for 2020.

VitamFero is seeking partnerships to out-licence its products. For the ovine toxoplasmosis vaccine, the firm has a sales and marketing pact with Australian business Bioproperties, in place since 2015. If the company achieves the launch dates it is aiming for, it hopes to record revenues of $4m by 2021.

Stronger intellectual property

Earlier in 2017, VitamFero secured two patents in the US for potential prophylactic treatments to prevent outbreaks of both bovine cryptosporidiosis and bovine neosporosis.

More recently, VitamFero filed three new patent applications. The first patent covers the development of the firm's technological platform through the creation of new live attenuated strains of apicomplexans and their use as antigen vectors to prevent infectious diseases.

This particular patent application is held jointly by VitamFero, France's national institute for agricultural research (INRA) and François-Rabelais University in Tours.

The second patent is for the construction of new antigen vectors expressing several heterologous antigens derived from parasites, viruses or bacteria. This patent application is held exclusively by VitamFero, which the firm said will allow for the development of its multivalent vaccine candidates.

The third patent covers the use of attenuated strains of parasites to prevent and treat infections in poultry, providing a safe alternative to antibiotics. This patent application – held jointly by VitamFero, INRA and François-Rabelais Tours University – concerns the development of a neonatal immunostimulant.

 Reprinted with permission of Animal Pharm News

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