Univ. of Wash.-spinout Icosavax raises $100M to fund vaccine development technology

Icosavax creates virus-like particles with technology licensed from the University of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design. (Icosavax Photo)

New funding: At a moment when vaccines are on everyone’s mind, a Seattle-based biotech company that has an unusual approach to vaccine production has raised $100 million in a Series B round. The startup creates computer-designed, virus-like particles that are used in vaccines to trigger immune responses. The new funding follows a $51 million round in October 2019. Icosavax has 17 employees.

More on the vaccines: Icosavax is working on a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as vaccines to prevent less well known diseases: respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and human metapneumovirus (hMPV). Early research results show that the vaccines elicit strong immune responses.

“Based on preclinical data, we believe our vaccine candidates could offer significant protection against leading viral causes of pneumonia in older adults where no licensed vaccines currently exist,” said Icosavax CEO Adam Simpson, regarding the RSV and hMPV vaccines.

The company launched its COVID program in October, supported in part by $10 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Strong ties to the Institute for Protein Design: The company is a spinout from the University of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design (IPD). The institute is led by David Baker, who is an Icosavax co-founder and advisor. Icosavax’s virus-like particle technology was invented at IPD by Neil King, who serves as chair of the startup’s scientific advisory board.

Simpson was formerly the CEO of PvP Biologics, another IPD spinout, which he oversaw from the company’s launch through its sale to the pharmaceutical company Takeda.

Investors: The investment round was led by RA Capital Management and joined by Janus Henderson Investors, Perceptive Advisors, Viking Global Investors, Cormorant Asset Management, Omega Funds and Surveyor Capital. Others contributing to the round include existing investors Qiming Venture Partners USA; Adams Street Partners; Sanofi Ventures; and ND Capital. The round included cash from a October 2020 funding.

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