In a significant stride towards advancing their cancer therapeutics platform, Irazú Oncology, a pioneering University of Maryland BioPark-based biotech company in Baltimore, has successfully closed a seed funding round, securing investments from a syndicate of local investors. The round, led by the Wexford SciTech Venture Fund, also saw participation from the University System of Maryland (USM) Momentum Fund, the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), Abell Foundation, and notable healthcare angel investors.
The financing will be instrumental in propelling the development of Irazú Oncology’s groundbreaking outer membrane vesicle (OMV) cancer vaccines platform. This ambitious project aims to revolutionize cancer treatment by providing a rapid and cost-effective approach to creating novel therapeutics capable of addressing multiple cancer types simultaneously.
Dr. Marco Chacón, President and Founder of Irazú Oncology, expressed enthusiasm about the investment, stating, “We’re excited to use this financing to advance Irazú Oncology’s next-generation cancer vaccine platform. The ultimate promise of this platform is the rapid and cost-effective creation of novel therapeutics that can treat multiple cancer types.”
The company is a winner of TEDCO’s Maryland Innovation Initiative Company Formation Awards.
Thomas Osha, President of the Wexford SciTech Venture Fund, conveyed his belief in Irazú’s potential, stating, “Irazú’s fusion of scientific expertise and entrepreneurial vision aligns perfectly with our fund’s focus on investing in transformative ventures pushing the boundaries of medical innovation.”
Momentum Fund Managing Director Mike Ravenscroft echoed this sentiment, expressing delight in supporting Irazú Oncology and emphasizing the potential impact of their technology on the treatment of aggressive cancer types. He stated, “The technology at the core of their platform represents a possible sea change for the treatment of aggressive cancer types. We look forward to helping the company leverage resources from the University System of Maryland and the Baltimore biotech ecosystem to make these lifesaving therapeutics a reality.”
Irazú Oncology’s cancer vaccine platform leverages outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) derived from genetically attenuated bacteria, engineered to display tumor antigens on their surface. The purified tumor antigens are then used to create vaccines, enabling the rapid production of self-adjuvanted vaccines. These vaccines can be size-selected to facilitate uptake by the lymph nodes and are amenable to combination with other immunotherapy drugs.
The technology driving this platform was developed by Dr. James Galen, Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and faculty within the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at UMSOM. Originally designed to target infectious diseases, Dr. Chacón recognized its potential application in oncology, leading to the exclusive worldwide license from UMB for the technology.
Irazú Oncology represents the first spin-out from Dr. Chacón’s venture studio, Irazú Bioholdings, founded in 2020 with the mission of funding and developing novel therapeutics based on university technologies. As the first technology from the studio to secure venture funding, Irazú Oncology plays a pivotal role in advancing the mission of Irazú Bioholdings to catalyze innovation and bring game-changing technology from the lab to the clinic.
Dr. Chacón, an industry veteran and expert in biotherapeutics manufacturing, previously founded Paragon Bioservices, a global leader in GMP manufacturing of vaccines and viral vectors for gene therapy. Paragon was successfully sold to Catalent for $1.2 billion in 2019.
Jim Hughes, Chief Enterprise and Economic Development Officer and Senior Vice President at UMB, expressed excitement about Irazú Oncology’s financing, stating, “We could not be more excited to see Irazú Oncology raise this financing. Marco has been an integral member of the UMB community – as a long-standing tenant in the University of Maryland BioPark and as a staunch supporter of the researchers and initiatives in our schools. We look forward to continuing to support Irazú as they advance their technology.”
Irazú Oncology, headquartered at the University of Maryland BioPark, aims to develop flexible and cost-effective cancer vaccines utilizing bacterial outer membrane vesicle (OMVs) technology to target solid tumors.
The recent investment secured by Irazú Oncology marks a significant milestone in the advancement of their novel cancer vaccine platform. With support from leading investors and a visionary leadership team, Irazú Oncology is poised to make substantial contributions to the field of oncology, addressing the urgent need for innovative and effective cancer treatments.