Morphogenesis gets closer to a cancer vaccine

A Tampa biotech company says it is getting closer to a shot that would treat some skin cancers.

Driving the news: Morphogenesis‘ new CEO, James Bianco, told Axios he expects to get fast-track approval from the Food and Drug Administration for the company’s therapeutic vaccine to treat certain types of skin cancer.

How it works: The company’s ImmuneFx vaccine uses plasmid DNA to activate new white blood cells in the body that attach to tumors, making them impossible for the immune system to ignore.

  • Morphogenesis grows the plasmid DNA inside bacteria at its Tampa lab. Then scientists purify and test the DNA before packing it into vials.

State of play: The results look so encouraging, Bianco says, that the company just extended enrollment for trials with the vaccine at Tampa’s Moffit Cancer Center, the University of Southern California and Harvard’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

  • If all goes as planned, the vaccine would be approved for the market by mid-2025, Bianco said.

What he’s saying: “Biotech is capital intense, and time and regulatory intense,” Bianco told Axios. “Having a trial like that takes us into a very select group of biotech companies that are focused on single trials to adequately get the drug approved.”

Worth noting: After receiving a grant from the National Cancer Institute to develop a topical treatment for cervical cancer, Morphogenesis decided not to pursue making the drug.

  • “The feasibility didn’t look like it was going to be able to go forward,” Bianco said.

What’s ahead: Bianco told the St. Pete Catalyst that Morphogenesis could go public as soon as the end of this year.

  • The company has raised $21.6 million in its Series B round over the last seven months. Local philanthropist and cardiologist Kiran Patel contributed $5 million and his family office gave $15 million in that round.
  • Bianco’s goal is eventually to have Morphogenesis acquired by, or working alongside, a major pharmaceutical company.

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