Abalos Therapeutics: €12 million Series A financing
Essen, Germany — Abalos Therapeutics announced the closing of a €12 million Series A financing round and its corporate debut. The company’s goal is to develop new immuno-oncology therapeutics. This approach is based on a specific type of arenavirus that preferentially infects and replicates in cancer cells, generating a strong immune response against the cancer cells. The Series A round was jointly led by Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF) and Gründerfonds Ruhr and included investments from NRW.BANK and High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF). The newly formed Supervisory Board of the company will be joined by representatives of all investors.
As part of the financing, Abalos further announced the appointment of Dr. Marcus Kostka as Chief Executive Officer and Dr. Jörg Vollmer as Chief Scientific Officer. Both have many years of experience in corporate development.
“Abalos’ goal is to leverage the potent immune activation and highly specific tumor tropism of arenaviruses to develop a differentiated immune-oncology approach and validate it clinically,” said Marcus Kostka, M.D., CEO of Abalos Therapeutics. “Having already supported and financed a number of biotech companies over the last few years, what attracted me to Abalos in particular was the promising technology. The opportunity to build a company together with Jörg Vollmer, an experienced immunology expert, also represents an extremely attractive opportunity.”
The funding round will enable Abalos to advance its arenavirus-based drug candidates into clinical validation. The first product candidates are being developed using the company’s proprietary Fast Evolution platform, which generates viral strains with optimal anti-tumor properties. These candidates are selected based on their potential to reprogram the immune system and eliminate malignant tumor tissue in a targeted and efficient manner. The approach is based on the innovative research of immunologists Prof. Dr. Karl Lang, Head of the Department of Immunology at the Medical Faculty of the University of Duisburg-Essen, and Prof. Dr. Philipp Lang, Director of the Department of Molecular Medicine II at the University of Düsseldorf. Abalos operates in close cooperation with the universities of Duisburg-Essen and Düsseldorf.
Dr. Aristotelis Nastos from Gründerfonds Ruhr commented: “We see significant progress in the field of immuno-oncology, however, there is still a need for product candidates that should enable the full power of the entire immune system to be harnessed. It is particularly important that these not only attack the primary tumor but also more distant metastases. We are pleased to support Abalos’ experienced management team and its dedicated scientists as they work towards an arenavirus-based solution.”
Dr. Frank Hensel, Principal of High-Tech Gründerfonds, adds: “Abalos Therapeutics is an excellent example of first-class scientific achievements at universities in Germany. The combination with an industry-experienced management team has resulted in a company that is capable of taking a decisive step in cancer treatment.”
Dr. Marcus Kostka is a seasoned industry expert with over 20 years of experience in various positions at Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) where he identified and drove innovation. Most recently, Dr. Kostka was a venture fund partner at BI and held supervisory board positions at several companies. He was also involved in the successful exits of Rigontec and ICD Therapeutics.
Dr. Jörg Vollmer brings to his position as CSO at Abalos Therapeutics extensive knowledge and experience in the fields of immunology, oncology and infectious diseases. He has acquired these in the course of his career in various R&D and management positions. Most recently, Dr. Vollmer was CSO at Rigontec, where he was involved in the development of a novel immuno-oncology treatment approach and its clinical validation. He also led the company’s R&D activities until its acquisition by MSD in 2017.
Abalos Therapeutics is using the unique immune stimulation of arenaviruses to develop a new approach to fighting cancer. This should enable the full power of the entire immune system to be used specifically against cancer cells. The goal of Abalos’ arenavirus-based product candidates is to activate the body’s innate and adaptive immune response by propagating the viruses in cancer cells. As a result, all relevant immune cell types specifically attack the primary tumor and also distant metastases. Led by experienced biotech entrepreneurs and immunology pioneers, Abalos aims to make a quantum leap in immuno-oncology.
About Boehringer Ingelheim Corporate Venture Fund (BIVF)
Founded in 2010, Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund GmbH (BIVF) invests in biotechnology companies focused on breakthrough new therapies to drive innovation in biomedical research. The BIVF seeks significant improvements in patient care through groundbreaking scientific discoveries as well as their clinical translation by building long-term relationships with scientists and entrepreneurs. The focus of the BIVF is to explore novel therapeutic approaches that address high unmet medical needs in immuno-oncology, regenerative medicine, infectious diseases, and digital health. These concepts may include, but are not limited to, novel platform technologies in response to previously untreatable diseases, next-generation vaccines, and/or New Biological Entities, such as oncolytic viral therapy.
The BIVF takes an active role vis-à-vis the companies in its portfolio and adds significant value through its own extensive experience in drug discovery, science and management. BIVF manages EUR 250 million and currently oversees a portfolio of over 25 companies.
About the Gründerfonds Ruhr
The Gründerfonds was initiated jointly by Initiativkreis Ruhr and NRW.BANK and is the first private-sector early-stage fund in the Ruhr region financed by regional industrial and financial companies. The fund invests in innovative and technology-oriented companies from the life science & health, digital economy, chemicals & new materials, energy & industry, and logistics & trade sectors. Prerequisites are good growth and exit prospects as well as competent management. As a multi-corporate early-stage fund, it also opens up important industry access points for the respective portfolio companies.
NRW.BANK is the development bank for North Rhine-Westphalia. It supports its owner, the state of NRW, in its structural and economic policy tasks. In its three promotion fields “Economy”, “Housing” and “Infrastructure/Municipalities”, NRW.BANK uses a broad range of promotion instruments: from low-interest development loans to equity financing and advisory services. It works together with all banks and savings banks in NRW on a competition-neutral basis. In its promotion activities, NRW.BANK also takes into account existing offers from the federal government, the state and the European Union.
About High-Tech Gründerfonds
The seed investor High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) finances technology startups with growth potential. With a total volume of EUR 895.5 million distributed across three funds and an international partner network, HTGF has already supported more than 550 startups since 2005. His team of experienced investment managers and startup experts supports the young companies with know-how, entrepreneurial spirit and passion. The focus is on high-tech start-ups in the software, media and Internet sectors, as well as hardware, automation, healthcare, chemicals and life sciences. More than EUR 2 billion in capital has been invested in the HTGF portfolio by external investors in more than 1,400 follow-on financing rounds to date. The fund has also successfully sold shares in more than 100 companies.
Investors in the public-private partnership include the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, KfW Capital, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and the business enterprises ALTANA, BASF, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, B.Braun, Robert Bosch, BÜFA, CEWE, Deutsche Post DHL, Dräger, Drillisch AG, EVONIK, EWE AG, FOND OF, Haniel, Hettich, Knauf, Körber, LANXESS, media + more venture Beteiligungs GmbH & Co. KG, PHOENIX CONTACT, Postbank, QIAGEN, RWE Generation SE, SAP, Schufa, Schwarz Gruppe, STIHL, Thüga, Vector Informatik, WACKER and Wilh. Werhahn KG.