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Evaxion partners with MSD for vaccine development

Evaxion partners with MSD for vaccine development

Evaxion partners with MSD for vaccine development

28 February, 2024

Last fall, Evaxion Biotech announced entering a collaboration with a leading pharma company for the development of a vaccine against a bacterial pathogen causing severe healthcare issues. Now, we know that the partner is MSD. According to Evaxion, the initial phases of the collaboration have been successful. BioStock reached out to Evaxion’s CEO, Christian Kanstrup, to learn more.

In its pursuit to develop new therapies to save and improve lives, Evaxion Biotech is harnessing the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to spearhead advancements in targeted immunotherapy development, including precision cancer vaccines and vaccines against infectious diseases.

At the core of Evaxion’s development strategy is its proprietary AI target discovery and development platform, AI-Immunology. Through this technology, Evaxion has already advanced two cancer AI-Immunology-designed vaccine candidates into clinical development, EVX-01 and EVX-02. Read more here.

Aiming for a refined business strategy

In September 2023, Evaxion’s Board brought in Christian Kanstrup as the new CEO to give more momentum to the company’s development and better exploit the strong foundation in AI technology. His appointment was specifically aimed at accelerating the strategic development and execution of the business opportunities at Evaxion.

According to Kanstrup, who visited the BioStock Studio in December to talk about the company’s refined business strategy, Evaxion’s new focus on value creation will revolve around a three-pronged business model, with the AI-Immunology platform at its core. The three pillars are TargetsPipeline and Responders – all of which will be suitable for partnerships. Read more here.

Partnership with MSD

Speaking of partnerships, soon after Kanstrup’s appointment, Evaxion announced two major collaborations. One is with Afrigen Biologics, which aimed at developing a prophylactic vaccine against gonorrhoea. The other was with a big pharma company, which remained undisclosed at the time, aimed at developing a new vaccine to protect against an unspecified bacterial pathogen.

Last week, we learned that the latter is a collaboration with MSD (Merck & Co.). The two companies have come together to work on a new project, called EVX-B3. The project involves using Evaxion’s AI Immunology platform for antigen discovery in the effort to develop this new bacterial vaccine.

Tarit Mukhopadhyay, Vice President, Head of Infectious Diseases and Vaccine Discovery at MSD, had this to say about the collaboration:

»At MSD, we are exploring new ways to apply AI technologies across the discovery-development continuum. We are excited to further advance our work with the Evaxion team.«

EVX-B3 is the third project in Evaxion’s pipeline dedicated to developing new bacterial vaccines. The other two candidates, EVX-B1 and EVX-B2, are in development to protect against two of the most dangerous bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and Neisseria Gonorrhoeae infections, respectively.

CEO insights

In the announcement about the MSD collaboration, Kanstrup mentioned that the first phases of the collaboration have been completed successfully. BioStock reached out to Kanstrup to learn more.

Christian, why is MSD the most suitable partner for this type of project?

– With MSD being a world leader in vaccines, it is, of course, a very strong partner given their capabilities within vaccine development and commercialisation, hence you can say it is a natural choice.

Christian Kanstrup, CEO Evaxion Biotech

Specifically, what does MSD bring to the table in this collaboration?

– MSD brings invaluable insights into the pathogen and the associated disease to the collaboration; the company has a profound understanding of and expertise within clinical development of prophylactic vaccines. Their deep understanding enhances our collaborative efforts, complementing our expertise in vaccine target discovery and design.

You have announced that the first phase of this collaboration has been completed successfully. Can you disclose any more details about this part of the project?

–  We have successfully applied our validated AI-Immunology platform and identified several druggable vaccine targets that are predicted to prevent infections from the pathogen. These AI-identified targets are currently being manufactured, and the next steps of the collaboration involve preclinical testing of these vaccine targets.

When will we learn more details about project, including the indication being targeted?

– We will of course ensure updates on the project at relevant milestones. You should be looking at completion and hopefully an out-license agreement with MSD in less than 12 months.

Finally, how does this collaboration fit into Evaxion’s refined business strategy?

– The MSD partnership is fully in line with our refined business strategy. Our three-pronged business strategy is based upon a multi-partner approach along the three pillars: Targets, Pipeline and Responders. The MSD partnership is a very good example of the type of partnerships we are pursuing within the Target pillar, aiming to discover and develop novel vaccines addressing severe unmet medical needs.

The content of BioStock’s news and analyses is independent but the work of BioStock is to a certain degree financed by life science companies. The above article concerns a company from which BioStock has received financing.

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