The province is supporting an innovative Halifax-based biotech company to advance groundbreaking vaccines that could save lives.
Immunovaccine Inc., is stepping up development of several promising vaccines, including those for cancer, infectious diseases, addiction and animal health.
“Immunovaccine is a homegrown company that’s pioneering new vaccine technology,” said Economic and Rural Development Minister Graham Steele. “Our support will help Immunovaccine keep the momentum that has been built over 20 years of hard work, innovation and research.”
Immunovaccine recently announced it will collaborate with the National Cancer Institute of Canada’s cancer trials group to conduct a phase II study of its cancer vaccine with patients that have advanced ovarian cancer. The study will assess whether the vaccine can delay or prevent cancer from recurring. The same vaccine will be used in a phase II trial in brain cancer patients early next year. The company’s second clinical stage cancer vaccine is expected to begin a phase I/II study in breast and ovarian cancer patients later this year.
The province is lending Immunovaccine $5 million in working capital so it can continue work and research while the phase II trial of its ovarian cancer vaccine begins. The five-year loan is interest-bearing.
“We’re grateful for the province’s support at this critical moment in our development,” said Immunovaccine chief executive John Trizzino. “Medical science is on the threshold of turning cancer into a chronic, long-term illness that can be treated, and our company is at the forefront of that revolutionary change. The province’s participation in this effort encourages everyone at Immunovaccine to work even harder to deliver results to patients in need.”
Immunovaccine employs 21 full-time staff and plans to hire nine more people over the next four years. The company is also active in animal health vaccine applications. Immunovaccine has established key partnerships in the sector, and has an agreement with Zoetis, formerly Pfizer Animal Health.
Immunovaccine’s work in vaccine development is based on the DepoVax immune-boosting platform, a patented agent that makes vaccines more effective more quickly, reach higher levels of protection and last longer. In addition to its cancer vaccines, the company is also using DepoVax to develop vaccines against anthrax and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), among others.
Dr. Scott Halperin from the Canadian Center for Vaccinology in Halifax welcomed the news.
“It’s encouraging to see the province support Immunovaccine’s promising work,” said Dr. Halperin. “I’d like to see more companies like Immunovaccine in Nova Scotia. They’re a key part of the province’s growing biotech and life-sciences sector, and their continued growth and development will help attract other companies to the province.”
Nova Scotia is home to some of the most innovative life sciences and biotech companies in the world, and is recognized as a centre of excellence for the growing sector.