News & Announcements
Irazú Oncology and University of Maryland, Baltimore Mark Anniversary of Exclusive License for Development of Colorectal Cancer Vaccine
November 7, 2023
The technology was developed by the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
BALTIMORE, MD, November 7, 2023 – Irazú Oncology, LLC, a biotechnology research company working to develop the next generation of cancer vaccines, and University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) are marking the one-year anniversary of their exclusive, worldwide license agreement and continuing partnership for the development of UMB’s novel immunotherapeutic vaccine technology. The Company, founded and led by Marco Chacón, PhD, is a UMB startup pursuing its plans to commercialize UMB’s technology as part of its oncology vaccine platform.
Irazú Oncology’s Membrane Vesicle Platform (MVP) technology utilizes nanosized outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) derived from attenuated bacteria to display and deliver tumor antigens to sites of immune response. The OMV vaccines are designed to stimulate the body’s own immune system to attack and destroy tumor cells. The Company’s lead vaccine candidate, IRZ-CRC-1, is a bivalent colorectal cancer vaccine that has shown excellent efficacy in colorectal cancer preclinical models.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second leading cause of cancer death in adults in the United States. Although five-year survival rates for early-stage, localized and regional CRC have improved, survival rates for late-stage and metastatic disease remain low. Thus, it remains urgent to investigate novel and effective therapeutic interventions to treat CRC.
To-date, the clinical translation of vaccine therapies for cancer has been challenging due to the complexity of cancer immunology and optimal vaccine design (Morse, M. A., Gwin, W. R., 3rd, & Mitchell, D. A. (2021). Vaccine Therapies for Cancer: Then and Now. Targeted oncology, 16(2), 121–152. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11523-020-00788-w). However, clinical researchers believe advances in technology and understanding of cancer immunology support the continued investigation of vaccine-based treatment strategies for cancer.
“We are very excited to continue advancing the development of outer membrane vesicle vaccines with the goal of improving the lives of cancer patients,” said Marcio Chedid, PhD, chief scientific officer at Irazú Oncology. “This innovative platform has the potential to not only change the way cancer vaccines are designed and developed, but to also remove obstacles that have hindered cancer vaccines from achieving greater efficacy and clinical success.”
The OMV technology was developed by UMB researchers led by James Galen, PhD, professor of medicine in the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), Department of Medicine, and faculty within the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at UMSOM. Dr. Galen is a leading innovator in the field of live attenuated bacterial vaccine vectors and sees great potential for the OMV-based platform technology.
“Its use for the delivery of antigens to the immune system represents a remarkable strategy for interrupting the immunosuppressive environment by which tumor cells can avoid clearance by an otherwise fully functional immune system,” commented Dr. Galen. “The platform can be rapidly adapted to present either tumor-specific targeted antigens or novel spontaneously arising ‘neoantigens’ against a wide variety of solid tumors. In principle, the approach can also be used in combination with existing standards of care to prevent cancer recurrence.”
“We’re very pleased to count Irazú Oncology as one of UMB’s startup company partners,” said Phil Robilotto, DO, MBA, associate vice president of UMB’s Office of Technology Transfer and director of UM Ventures, Baltimore. “Our team celebrated the Company’s recent receipt of a Company Formation Award from TEDCO’s Maryland Innovation Initiative, and we’re excited to see the company’s research and development progress over the coming years.”
Based in the University of Maryland (UM) BioPark, Irazú Oncology was founded and is led by Dr. Chacón. Dr. Chacón previously founded and served as chief executive officer of Paragon Bioservices, Inc., a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) also based in the UM BioPark which specialized in process development and cGMP manufacturing of vaccines and viral vectors for gene therapy. In 2019, Paragon was acquired by Catalent, Inc., a leading, global CDMO, for $1.2 billion – one of the Baltimore region’s largest exits in the last ten years.
“Irazú Oncology’s mission is to bring forth the application of novel and creative science in the pursuit of better interventions to treat different types of cancer,” said Founder and President Dr. Chacón. “Our efforts are also in keeping with recently acknowledged initiatives by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Cancer Institute, and the NIH’s Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health to explore the development of cancer vaccines.”
In anticipation of a Phase I clinical trial, Irazú Oncology is currently conducting pivotal animal studies and raising a bridge funding round to initiate Investigational New Drug-enabling studies. The company is also positioning for a Series A financing in the middle of 2024.
ABOUT IRAZÚ ONCOLOGY:
Irazu Oncology, LLC is focused on developing novel, effective, and cost-effective cancer vaccines. While initially targeting colorectal cancer, Irazu's Membrane Vesicle Platform vaccine technology can easily target multiple malignancies. The company was founded in May 2022.
ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, BALTIMORE:
The University of Maryland, Baltimore is commercializing breakthrough therapies, diagnostics and devices, fueling the creation of innovative start-up companies, and attracting industry leaders and entrepreneurs to its thriving campus. Founded in 1807 as the first public medical school in the nation, the University is a fast-growing biomedical research center with nationally ranked professional schools of dentistry, law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, social work, an interdisciplinary graduate school as well as a 14 acre bio-medical research park. www.umaryland.edu
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