Avaxia Biologics, a Lexington, MA-based startup that is developing an oral version of popular anti-tumor necrosis (TNF) factor drugs, said today that it has raised $6.4 million in Series B financing. Avaxia will use the funds to finance the first clinical trial of AVX-470, an anti-TNF antibody designed to suppress inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, and targeted at such diseases as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Other anti-TNF drugs, such as Johnson & Johnson’s infliximab (Remicade) and Abbot Labs’ adalimumab (Humira), are injected or infused, and can increase the risk of infection. Avaxia is hoping that, because AVX-470 is a pill that will go directly to the gut, it will have fewer side effects. The company’s investigational new drug application was accepted by the FDA on Nov. 27 and it plans to begin enrolling patients with ulcerative colitis into a Phase 1b clinical trial early next year.
As Xconomy wrote a year ago, after Avaxia raised $2.2 million in a Series A funding, AVX-470 also differs from other drugs in its class in the way it is produced—in cow’s milk. Pregnant cows are immunized with a bioengineered form of human TNF, and the antibody is then isolated from the cows’ colostrum—the milk produced just before they give birth. “It’s a very rich source of antibodies,” Avaxia co-founder and CEO Barbara Fox told Xconomy then. “You can get about a kilo of our antibody from a cow in the first four days after calving.”
Today’s new financing round was led by existing investor Cherrystone Angels and new investor Golden Seeds. Also participating were existing investors Beacon Angels, Boston Harbor Angels, Launchpad Venture Group, Mass Medical Angels, and North Country Angels; new investors the Beta Fund, Granite State Angels, the Keiretsu Forum, and Maine Angels; and individual investors.