Iaso Therapeutics, a Michigan State University startup developing novel technologies for next-generation vaccines, recently closed the first portion of the company’s $1.25 million Series Seed Preferred round of financing.
Proceeds from the funding will be used to advance Iaso’s customizable drug delivery and vaccine platform based on bacteriophage mQβ to boost immune system responses against weakly immunogenic antigens.
“Iaso Therapeutics has successfully supported the early development of our mQβ vaccine platform with NSF and NIH SBIR grants,” says Robert Forgey, president and CEO of Iaso Therapeutics. “This funding will accelerate the development of this technology as we begin our journey.”
Participating in the round was the Michigan Rise Pre-Seed III Fund, Red Cedar Ventures Pre-Seed Fund, and Michigan-based angel investors. Iaso Therapeutics is also eligible to receive up to $125K in funding from the Michigan Small Business Development Center and Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Emerging Technology Fund, leveraging a successful National Science Found Phase II SBIR grant in March 2022.
Based in East Lansing, Iaso Therapeutics, founded in 2018 by Xuefei Huang, utilizes carbohydrate-based vaccine chemistry technology research in partnership with Michigan State University. Iaso Therapeutics more recently hired Forgey as president and CEO, who brought two decades of biotechnology start-up experience.
“It has been rewarding to follow the progress of the Iaso Therapeutics since its early inception at Michigan State University,” says Jeff Wesley, executive director of Michigan Rise Pre-Seed III. “The company is developing a platform with the potential to create vaccines for both infectious diseases and cancers, but also with the potential to deliver therapeutics to target tissues. In addition, the company, over a short period of time, has amassed strong pre-clinical animal data and can point to initial success in getting vaccines to the clinic as proof of concept.”
The mQβ carrier has been conjugated with various molecules, such as small molecules, sugars, peptides, proteins, polysaccharides, and glycoproteins. This has the potential to be a widely used carrier for both human and animal vaccines.
“Iaso Therapeutics’ technology has substantial potential to be a new safe and highly efficient vaccine platform,” says Don Parfet, managing director of the Apjohn Group and Iaso Therapeutics investor. “I really like the team and am impressed by the progress that has been made under the support and oversight of Spartan Innovations and MSU Technologies.”
The overall increase in infectious and noninfectious diseases, growing population, and recent technological advancements in vaccines and enabling technologies create considerable scope for the overall vaccine market. The resurgence of vaccine preventable diseases and the emergence of new pandemics and immunization programs in emerging economies also heavily influence the global vaccine market.
Iaso Therapeutics expects to complete this Series Seed Preferred round of financing later this year.