With a newly appointed CEO, Evaxion Biotech is putting more focus on execution and value realisation through partnerships involving its AI-Immunology platform. BioStock spoke with Evaxion’s CEO Christian Kanstrup about the steps already taken to implement this new strategy and what we can expect from Evaxion in 2024.
In its pursuit to develop new cancer therapies to improve patients’ lives, Evaxion Biotech is harnessing the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to spearhead advancements in targeted immunotherapy development, including precision cancer vaccines and vaccines targeting infectious diseases.
The basis for the company’s technology is AI-Immunology – Evaxion’s proprietary AI target discovery and development platform. Thanks to this platform, Evaxion has already discovered several therapeutic targets, two of which are cancer vaccine candidates in clinical development, EVX-01 and EVX-02.
The face of new business strategy for Evaxion
Evaxion’s AI platforms have matured significantly over the past 15 years. In order to better exploit the strong foundation in AI technology and give more momentum to Evaxion’s development, the company’s Board brought in Christian Kanstrup as new CEO this past September. His appointment specifically aims to accelerate the strategic development and execution of the business opportunities at Evaxion.
We are already getting a glimpse of Evaxion’s new business strategy. Yesterday, the company released its Q3 results for the year, and with the report came a clear outline for a refined strategy focused on value creation for the company. According to Kanstrup, the core of the new strategy lies in the AI-Immunology platform – it holds the potential for generating one new target every 24 hours and is easily adaptable to partner needs. He also mentions three main pillars on which to base value creation: targets, pipeline and responders.
An example of the new strategic plan came in September when Evaxion established two major partnerships revolving around the AI-Immunology platform, aimed specifically at developing vaccines against infectious diseases. Read more about this here.
Private placement to bring USD 5.3 million
With the new business vision comes a new financing strategy – with its Q3 report, Evaxion announced a Private Placement financing to raise around 5.3 million USD. The Private Placement includes participation from existing and new shareholders. The largest new shareholder is MSD Global Health Innovation Fund (MSD GHI), the corporate venture capital arm of Merck & Co., accounting for approximately 25 per cent of the total offering amount. All members of Evaxion’s management and Board of Directors are also participating in the Private Placement.
BioStock got in touch with Evaxion’s CEO to better understand his vision for Evaxion, including the company’s broader financing strategy.
Christian, you have been CEO at Evaxion for three months. How would you summarise this transitory phase for you and for the company?
– It has been a truly exciting time, I am very impressed by the people, our platform and the opportunities we have ahead. Its also been busy as we have been working on refining our strategy, getting the private placement done as well as advancing our business development discussions at the same time. However, when you feel and see all things aligning it is worth every effort.
With the unveiling of the refined business strategy, you talk about value realisation via targets, pipeline and responders. Could you expand on that and give us some examples?
– Yes, I would be pleased to give you some insights here and I am happy to say we already have seen significant process within each of these three areas: Two partnerships announced within Targets and encouraging initial EVX-01 Phase 2 data showcase significant progress in our Pipeline. Within Responders, we have obtained proof-of-principle for our checkpoint inhibitor responder model.
Regarding the Private Placement, how significant is it to have MSD Global Health Innovation Fund as a major shareholder?
– Having a new long-term cornerstone investor like MSD GHI onboard is of course of significant value to us and a major milestone in the history of Evaxion. MSD is a leader in oncology and infectious diseases and having MSD GHI on board open a world of new opportunities. We are looking very much forward to be working with the experienced team of MSD GHI.
What does this Private Placement mean for Evaxion’s long-term financing strategy?
It is a key part in our long-term financing strategy. As you know it is our ambition to be able to fund our 2024 cash burn (without financing activities) with business development income but as any business development income is uncertain, we need to create the needed cash flexibility. This Private Placement is an important part of creating such flexibility.
Finally, what can we expect from Evaxion in 2024?
– 2024 will be the first year in the Evaxion history where we generate business development income equal to our cash burn, that is a significant milestone. Its also the first time we have a significant corporate investor like MSD GHI on the cap table. Further, we have a very exciting set of milestones coming up as you see below.
- EVX-B1 – Conclusion of final MTA study with a potential partner, Q1, 2024
- AI-Immunology™ – Launch of EDEN™ model 5.0, mid-2024
- EVX-B2-mRNA – Preclinical proof-of-principle obtained, Q3-2024
- EVX-01 – Phase 2 one-year readout, Q3, 2024
- EVX-B3 – Conclusion of target discovery and validation work in collaboration with leading pharma, H2, 2024
- Precision ERV cancer vaccines – Preclinical proof-of-concept obtained, H2, 2024