QUBIS and Queen’s University Belfast has announced their 100th spin–out company – AilseVax – with seed funding of £1.5M from a group of investors.
AilseVax will identify and develop novel therapeutic vaccines for cancer patients, which work with the body’s immune system to overcome cancer. These cancer vaccines are a form of immunotherapy that can help educate the immune system about what cancer cells “look like” so that it can recognise and destroy them using the body’s own defences.
The £1.5M seed investment for AilseVax includes investors from QUBIS, the commercialisation arm of Queen’s University Belfast; Co Fund NI and TechStart NI as part of Invest Northern Ireland’s Access to Finance suite of funds, ; and Sapphire Capital, together with grants from Biomedical Catalyst, InnovateUK and Invest NI.
Speaking on the investment, Dr Paul Kerr, CEO at AilseVax, said: “We are very pleased with the support from our investors and competitive grant funding to advance our mission to develop novel cancer vaccine therapies. With this support we can accelerate our research and bring promising therapies forward into clinical trials and ultimately improve the lives of cancer patients.”
Located in Belfast, AilseVax formed as a spin–out company from Queen’s University Belfast and Trinity College Dublin (TCD), two of the leading research universities on the island of Ireland. The partnership was built on a decade long academic collaboration in the cancer vaccine field and was aided by the Ireland–Northern Ireland–US National Cancer Institute Cancer Consortium formed in 1999 to link knowledge and innovation between the USA, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; this consortium was itself a result of the Good Friday Agreement.
AilseVax scientists are globally–recognised experts in functional genomics, data science, cancer biology, drug delivery, immunology and vaccines.
The research team is made up of cancer experts from Queen’s University and TCD including Professor Ed Lavelle, Professor Dan Longley, Professor Chris Scott, Dr Mehdi Jafarnejad, Dr Simon McDade and Dr Sarah Maguire.
The research at TCD by the Lavelle group involves therapeutic vaccination against cancer using novel adjuvants to boost cell mediated immune responses. Ed Lavelle commented that ‘developing improved cancer vaccines relies on innovations in adjuvant discovery and our novel technologies have great potential to enhance the effectiveness of cancer immunotherapy’.
Commenting on the announcement, Professor Dan Longley, Director of Research at the Patrick G Johnston Centre for Cancer Research (PGJCCR) and founder of AilseVax, said: “It is incredibly exciting to be part of AilseVax. The science we are doing in Queen’s and Trinity is at the cutting–edge of cancer vaccine research. The approaches we are developing have the potential to significantly improve outcomes for people with cancer across the globe.”