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Versantis Raises CHF 4.4 Million in Series A Financing to Advance New Generation of Liver Disease Medicines
Funding brings resources to advance lead candidate VS-01 to first-in-human study and transform the care of patients with rare and life-threatening liver diseases.
Zurich, Switzerland, March 29th 2017 – Versantis, a pharmaceutical company focused on the development of products addressing a high unmet medical need in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of liver diseases, today announces the closing of a Series A financing round of CHF 4.4 million (USD 4.4 million). Redalpine Venture Partners led the round and was joined by Altus Partners, HealthEquity, Occident Group, Zürcher Kantonalbank, and private investors. The proceeds will be used to progress the lead candidate, VS-01, into a Phase I/II clinical trial targeting hepatic encephalopathy in acute on chronic-liver-failure, as well as to further develop the company’s preclinical pipeline.
“We are thrilled to welcome an outstanding consortium of investors in our Series A financing who will not only bring capital resources, but also compelling visions and complementary experiences which will continue to drive execution and craft innovative strategies to advance our products’ pipeline. The timing of this financing is excellent and puts Versantis in a competitive position to rapidly access the growing multi-billion-dollar market of liver diseases.” said Dr. Vincent Forster, CEO and co-founder of Versantis. “This is an exciting time for Versantis as we advance the development of our lead compound VS-01 to reach Phase IIa and deliver proof-of-safety and preliminary proof-of-efficacy in the clinic; this will represent a major milestone which will serve as a common basis for 3 different indications in acute liver failure.” added Dr. Meriam Kabbaj, COO and co-founder of Versantis.
Versantis’ board of Directors is chaired by Peter Nicklin, senior healthcare executive with extensive international experience (Baxter, Bayer Healthcare, Novartis). In conjunction with the financing, Michael Sidler, Redalpine, and Lluis Pareras, HealthEquity, will join the founding board members Drs. Kabbaj and Forster.
“It was the entrepreneurial quality of the founding team, the solid science and the combination of a medtech product with a drug-like potential that convinced us to lead this investment round.” stated Dr. Sidler, Redalpine. “We believe in Versantis’ innovative pipeline that carries a big hope for treating the patients suffering from acute liver diseases.” added Altus Partners.
Dr. Pareras from HealthEquity said: “We are confident that Versantis can further build on the positive results for VS-01 generated to date and we are committed to progressing Versantis’ candidate rapidly to first-in-man to provide an option for the treatment of hepatic encephalopathy. Its strong preclinical results and novel mechanism of action, developed by Dr. Vincent Forster and Dr. Meriam Kabbaj, convinced us of the value of the research. We are excited to understand more about the potential for this therapy to benefit patients afflicted with liver diseases.”
About acute liver diseases
Acute-on-Chronic Liver Failure (ACLF) and Acute Liver Failure (ALF) are rare diseases characterized by an acute decompensation of the liver supplemented by hepatic encephalopathy, a neuropsychiatric condition rapidly progressing into coma and death. These indications represent about 120'000 patients yearly in the EU and USA and continue to increase due to the aging population, and a higher prevalence of diabetes, obesity, alcohol, and drug intoxications. Pediatric patients suffering from congenital Urea Cycle Disorders (UCD) represent a third indication for VS-01 which has the potential to be the first tailored lifesaving therapy meeting the specific needs of this population.
About Redalpine Venture Partners
Redalpine Venture Partners is an early stage investor focusing on disruptive and highly scalable business models. Their aim is to help talented entrepreneurs turn their visions into reality. To foster entrepreneurial success, Redalpine provides financial backing as well as relevant know-how and a reliable network. Redalpine focuses on European Life-Science and ICT start-ups.
Altus Partners BioMed Tech Innovations AG is an investment holding company seated in Basel, Switzerland. APBMTI is committed for healthcare excellence by promoting biomedical innovations into clinical practice.
HealthEquity is a Spanish venture capital firm investing in early-stage companies in the healthcare sector, with a special focus on biotechnology and medical devices. Founded by the Barcelona Medical Association and the financial group Riva y Garcia, HealthEquity is looking for projects to bring successful innovative life science companies to the marketplace and to foster the Catalan and Spanish biotech ecosystem.
About Occident Group
Founded in 1993, Occident Group is an international, privately held investment company based in Zug. Occident Group currently holds more than 50 investments in venture capital, real estate development, investment properties and real assets. A strong forward-looking approach is key to Occident Group’s investment philosophy, thus the focus with startup companies is on promising innovations and highly motivated entrepreneurs with the drive for excellence and sustainable success. Occident Group acts as long-term investor and contributes more than just financial support.
Versantis is a Swiss pharmaceutical company, Spin-off of ETH Zurich, developing breakthrough liver disease medicines and diagnostics addressing high unmet medical needs. Its lead candidate, VS-01, is currently at preclinical stage and has the potential to be the first drug for acute liver disease simultaneously supporting multiple failing organs. VS-01 targets 3 rare indications and received an Orphan Drug Designation in ALF. In addition, Versantis’ pipeline promises to improve patients’ outcome in other medical fields; VS-02 and VS-03 are developed for chronic liver diseases and for the treatment of drug intoxications, both representing large market opportunities and significant upsides for Versantis.
Versantis' main patent granted in Japan
After Australia, we are very pleased to report that the Japanese Examiner has also issued the Decision to Grant our patent. This achievement demonstrates the robustness of the intellectual property surrounding our products. We look forward to adding other countries to this list.
The EMA issued a positive opinion on the orphan drug designation for VS-01 for the treatment of acute liver failure.
17 May 2016: the Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products (COMP), in light of the overall data submitted and the discussion within the Committee, issued a positive opinion on orphan medicinal product designation for VS-01 for the treatment of acute liver failure.
About Orphan Drug Designation
The EMA's COMP grants the orphan designation for medicines that are intended for the treatment of rare diseases. It offers the sponsor incentives, which include:
- Protocol assistance during clinical development;
- Access to the centralised authorization procedure; This allows companies to make a single application to the EMA resulting in a single opinion valid in all EU Member States;
- Access to conditional approval;
- Market exclusivity post approval of 10 years.
- Reduced fees for regulatory activities including protocol assistance, marketing authorization applications, inspections before authorization and applications for changes to marketing authorizations made after approval, and reduced annual fees.
- Available funding from the European Commission
Versantis selected for MassChallenge 2016 Accelerator
May 19, 2016: Versantis is delighted to join MassChallenge Switzerland, the most start up-friendly accelerator on the planet. One of roughly 70 start-ups participating, Company Name will benefit from mentorship, office space, and a vast network of experienced entrepreneurs, corporate partners, and investors. In November, all MassChallenge Switzerland start-ups will compete for shares of 1 million CHF in cash awards with no equity taken.
“We are extremely happy to be part of the MassChallenge 2016 Accelerator program”, said M. Kabbaj, co-founder and COO; “without any doubt this will be a valuable support for Versantis to meet its next operational milestone but also to extend its network of key opinion leaders and business experts”.
“I am thrilled to announce our first cohort. We’re excited to welcome some of the world’s highest-impact start-ups to our Switzerland-based accelerator in June,” said Carmelo Bisognano, MassChallenge Switzerland Managing Director. “We are grateful to our engaged global community of alumni, mentors, and partners provide the support and access that early-stage start-ups need to be successful.”
This year’s MassChallenge Switzerland class was selected from more than 450 applicants across a diverse range of industries and geographies, including 55 countries. The accelerator program will culminate at the MassChallenge Switzerland Awards Ceremony, where entrepreneurs will pitch their start-ups with the chance to win a share of 1 million CHF in zero-equity cash awards.
Versantis awarded with CTI Start-up Label, a seal of quality and maturity.
12 Apr 2016: Versantis received the CTI Label from the Swiss Committee for Technology Innovation. This recognition places Versantis into the selective group of CTI certified Swiss start-ups.
CTI Start-up, an initiative from the Swiss Confederation’s innovation promotion agency is supporting new and innovative enterprises in the high-tech sector with a tailored, hands-on coaching process that culminates with the CTI label, “a seal of quality, a certificate of achievement, and a sign of credibility and readiness for sustainable growth”.
The first and main patent of Versantis granted
We are pleased to report that Versantis' patent application protecting its innovative drug capture platform has now been granted in Australia. This is an important step forward that strengths the intellectual property around VS-01 and the next VS products in the portfolio.
Versantis celebrated its first year!
Congratulations to all the team for their hard and diligent work which kept us up and running. We are proud of all the important milestones achieved this last year and are looking forward to the ones coming up! Big thanks to all our coaches, advisers, and organizations for their continuous support!
Versantis to have its first scientific advice meeting with the EMA in Apr 2016
Versantis submits its briefing document to the EMA summarizing key elements of its preclinical and clinical development and requests a Scientific Advice Meeting with the EMA that has been validated. The procedure will start as planned during the SAWP (Scientific Advice Working Party) meeting on 8–11 February 2016. The scientific advice meeting is to happen in Apr 2016 and will be instrumental to firm up the development plan of VS-01.
Versantis receives confirmation from the EMA that its application for orphan drug designation in acute liver failure is valid
Versantis submits a request for VS-01’ orphan drug designation in the indication of acute liver failure. The EMA validates Versantis’ application and confirms its evaluation at the COMP in April 2016.
Versantis initiates the manufacturing scale up of VS-01
VS-01 is a liposomal peritoneal dialysis fluid that enhances the clearance of toxic metabolites accumulated during acute liver disease. Versantis collaborates with a well-established contract manufacturing organization specialized in the liposomes technology to initiate the industrial production of VS-01. First results of the feasibility study to be available in March 2016.
Congratulations to V. Forster, Winner of the Pfizer Research Award
Versantis congratulates its CEO, V Forster on winning the Pfizer Research Award for its work on liposomes-supported peritoneal dialysis. Thanks to all co-authors and collaborators!
The Pfizer Research Prize, one of the most prestigious for medical research in Switzerland, is awarded by the Foundation to young scientists who have made outstanding and pioneering contributions in basic or clinical research at Swiss research institutes or hospitals.
"We are proud of our longstanding commitment and are convinced of its value in encouraging young scientists and promoting Switzerland as a center of research," said Pfizer Foundation Board Member Ralph Studer, Mid-Size Markets Director, Pfizer Primary Care Europe, and Country Lead, Pfizer Switzerland.
Versantis receives the SME status and is now eligible for all associated incentives
Versantis is now in the listing of SME companies and on the EMA’s website (reference number C/498/15/01). This is the first regulatory achievement of Versantis that comes with significant incentives namely administrative and procedural assistance from the SME office, fee reductions for procedures including scientific advice, fee exemptions for certain administrative services, assistance with translations of the product information documents, and waiver of the MedDra licensing fee.
Positive in vivo efficacy and safety results pave the way for the regulatory preclinical studies.
Versantis successfully reaches its R&D targets set for 2015. Versantis freezes the formulation of its first product, VS-01, a life-saving solution for patients with acute liver disease. The team manages to set-up a scalable manufacturing process, complete the in vivo proof of efficacy in a rat model of acute liver failure, and assess the in vivo proof of safety in a larger animal model (pigs).
Versantis congratulates to all team members for these achievements and acknowledge them for their hard work and invaluable commitment!
Versantis attends an Innovation Task Force meeting at the EMA and consolidated its preclinical, clinical, and regulatory plan.
The Innovation Task Force (ITF) is a multidisciplinary group at the EMA that includes scientific, regulatory, and legal competences. It was set up to ensure coordination across the European Medicines Agency and to provide a forum for early dialogue with applicants.
The robust science behind Versantis’ technology is rewarded by The Phoenix Group
Versantis congratulates V Forster, Versantis CEO, JC Leroux, Professor at the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences ETH Zürich and Versantis co-founder, as well as all the co-authors of the following manuscript awarded by The Phoenix Group Award in the category Pharmaceutical Technology: “Liposome-supported peritoneal dialysis for detoxification of drugs and endogenous metabolites. Science Translational Medicine 6, 258ra141 (2014)”. This is a great recognition of the robust science behind Versantis’ technology.
With its annual prize the PHOENIX Group awards the best scientific work in pharmaceutical research in German-speaking countries. This award is one of the most prestigious science prizes in this region and constitutes a focal point for the company's R&D activities. “Als ein führender Gesundheitsdienstleister in Europa ist es uns im Rahmen unseres gesellschaftlichen Engagements ein besonderes Anliegen, die exzellente wissenschaftliche pharmazeutische Forschung in den deutschsprachigen Ländern zu fördern. Langfristig unterstützen wir damit auch eine wichtige Säule des Apothekerstandes“, said Oliver Windholz, Chairman of the Board of the PHOENIX Group.
Versantis is a finalist of the Wellcome Translation Award
The Wellcome Trust is an independent global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. The aim of the Wellcome Trust Translation Awards is to develop innovative and ground breaking new technologies in the biomedical area. Versantis submits a project and is shortlisted among hundreds of projects to make it to the final presentation. Versantis receives funding to cover its consultancy activities in regulatory and clinical development as well as constructive feedback from the Wellcome Trust experts and committee members who “were excited about the simplicity of the technology”.
Versantis secured enough funding to complete the R&D for its first product VS-01
Financing for the R&D has been secured in seed funding in March 2015 from the ZKB, the Swiss Innovation Promotion Agency KTI/CTI, and other valuable grants. These funds will be spent to optimize the manufacturing, complete the proof of efficacy and safety of VS-01 and set-up the operational activities.
Versantis receives the support of CHF 320'000.- from The Gebert Ruef Stiftung.
Versantis sincerely acknowledges the Gebert Ruef Stiftung for its significant financial support that will be instrumental for the translation of VS-01 from an academic prototype to a product ready to undergo preclinical regulatory studies and potentially attract investors.
The charter of Gebert Rüf Stiftung founded in 1997 states the purpose article as «promoting Switzerland as a place to live and do business». The mission statement of the foundation provides support for new approaches and selected junior scientists in the so-called valley of death. In line with the support criteria, a project must be impact-oriented and of a high caliber if it is to be eligible. Gebert Rüf Stiftung is not an operating foundation that exclusively maintains its own projects, but is above all a grant-making foundation which actively shapes and enables.
15 March 2015
Versantis was incorporated
Versantis was incorporated in March 2015 as a spin-off of ETH Zürich. Versantis is a start-up company focused on the discovery and the development of innovative solutions in the high unmet medical field of acute liver disease. Versantis counts on a team of three committed founders and dedicated scientists who are experts within their specific area. The team collectively has pharmaceutical, manufacturing, preclinical / clinical expertise, and management skills. Versantis enjoys its unique location in the ie Lab at ETH Honggerberg and the incredible support both in terms of IP funding and the use of laboratories and equipment.
Versantis wins the CHF 100'000.- prize of Venture Kick Stage 3
Versantis sincerely acknowledges The Venture Kick for its financial support, its coaching, and valuable advices throughout the process which considerably fostered Versantis’ maturity in various aspects of its development.
Venture Kick provides spin-off projects at Swiss universities with pre-seed capital, coaching and access to professional investors. Members from a jury pool (100+ leading startup experts across Switzerland) evaluate and support 16 spin-off projects in three sessions every month. Since the inception of the program, 403 startup projects were supported with CHF 16.01 million in pre-seed capital (up to CHF 130.000 per Venture Kick winner). Additionally, the supported startups received hands-on coaching during 234 kickers camps.
Prof JC Leroux receives the support of CHF 50'000.- from the OPO-Stiftung
Prof JC Leroux at the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences ETH Zürich and Versantis co-founder receives a financial support of CHF 50'000.- from the OPO-Stiftung for further developing of the academic prototype of Versantis’ product, VS-01
The OPO Foundation is the legacy of the Zurich entrepreneurs Hermine Raths and Marguerite Steiger to posterity. It was established in 1985 in Zurich as a nonprofit operating Foundation committed first and foremost for the promotion of science and research.
Versantis receives the support of CHF 100'000.- from the Volkswirtschaft-Stiftung
Versantis sincerely acknowledges the Volkswirtschaft-Stiftung for its financial support which will help setting up operational and legal activities.
The Swiss Federal Foundation for Promotion of the National Economy through Scientific Research financially supports and furthers the founding of Swiss technology start-ups. The foundation’s purpose is to promote the Swiss economy through innovation. Generally speaking, the foundation promotes applied research that is subsequently exploited in promising commercial applications.