Middlesex County’s VaxInnate Uses State Support in its Quest to Prevent Infectious Diseases
TRENTON (June 25, 2015) – Continuing New Jersey’s long-standing tradition of being a leader in technology, companies in the Garden State are seen as innovators in addressing today’s health threats. With the onset of new viruses, companies such as VaxInnate Corporation are racing to stay ahead by developing state-of-the-art vaccinations.
Cranbury-based VaxInnate focuses on preventing infectious diseases. VaxInnate’s proprietary toll-like receptor technology genetically fuses vaccine antigens to the bacterial protein flagellin, creating a strong immune response. VaxInnate is able to use a low-cost, highly scalable recombinant DNA technique that doesn’t rely on age-old egg-based manufacturing to produce vaccines. The company is currently employing this technology in its mid-stage clinical programs for seasonal and pandemic influenza, and plans to leverage it as it advances earlier-stage candidates for dengue and other serious infectious diseases.
In 2011, VaxInnate was awarded a $118 million, five-year contract from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to fund the development of the seasonal and pandemic flu vaccines. The company has also benefitted from New Jersey’s Technology Business Tax Certificate Transfer (NOL) Program over the last six years. This has allowed the company to sell unused New Jersey net operating losses and research and development tax credits to unrelated profitable corporations to raise cash to finance their growth and operations.
Administered by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) and the New Jersey Department of Treasury's Division of Taxation, up to $60 million is made available through the NOL program annually to support qualified technology and life sciences companies.
Applications for funding through the State’s Fiscal Year 2016 allocation must be submitted by June 30. Applications can be found at https://www.njeda.gov/nol.
@NJEDATech asked VaxInnate President and Chief Executive Officer Wayne Pisano about the company’s experience in New Jersey and its plans for the future.
Why did you choose to grow your company in New Jersey?
VaxInnate was founded in 2001 by Yale University professors, Ruslan Medzhitov and Richard Flavell, who are also Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators and leaders in the field of innate immunity. In 2004, our leadership team decided to headquarter the company in New Jersey to gain access to the highly educated and experienced pool of talent in New Jersey. This resource has proven especially beneficial as we’ve grown to employ approximately 55 employees, most of whom have advance degrees in the sciences.
In addition to talent, New Jersey’s chapter of the Biotechnology Industry Organization has been an incredible resource, providing valuable insights and networking opportunities. From a financial point of view, New Jersey offers convenient access to the New York financial community, as well as a variety of state programs, which provided valuable non-dilutive capital to VaxInnate. With these resources, VaxInnate was able to secure approximately 20,000 square feet of laboratory and office space, including molecular and cell biology labs, cell culture facilities, a protein pilot plant and analytical laboratory space.
How did VaxInnate benefit from the NOL program?
VaxInnate has received approximately $8.5 million through the NOL Program. These funds have been used to hire highly educated and experienced scientists and employees, and to advance our research and development programs. Today we have two products in mid-stage clinical development – vaccines for seasonal and pandemic influenza – and several earlier stage candidates. From this strong financial foundation, we have also been able to dedicate resources to the pursuit of new indications to further strengthen our pipeline.
What makes VaxInnate’s technology different from other companies’ that develop vaccines?
We believe our proprietary recombinant vaccine production technology offers significant benefits over traditional manufacturing methods, including reliability, cost effectiveness and speed, which can be essential when reacting to unexpected influenza strain drifts, as we witnessed earlier in 2015.
What is your company’s biggest success to date?
From a technology perspective, the recombinant vaccine production method we have developed has proven extremely efficient and flexible. From a pipeline perspective, one may point to our seasonal influenza quadrivalent product, which is currently in Phase 2 and has demonstrated encouraging results to date. However, our biggest success in undoubtedly the dedicated team of scientists, executives and administrative personnel who have persevered, adapted and succeeded in an extremely competitive industry. Without this team, VaxInnate would not have developed and implemented the technology that is the foundation of our now growing pipeline.
What’s in store for VaxInnate?
VaxInnate recently announced the reprioritization of resources in research and clinical development to help advance the Company’s preclinical initiatives. This should allow the company to further build its pipeline outside of its lead influenza programs, to include vaccines against dengue and Clostridium difficile, as well as other infectious disease targets. Several years from now, we hope VaxInnate will have a much enhanced pipeline, and perhaps a larger team to support the new research and development efforts.