citybiz+ Irazu Oncology Secures $2.6M Debt to Advance UMB’s Vaccine Technology

Irazu Oncology, which is using a platform built by researchers at University of Maryland, Baltimore to develop cancer vaccines, has secured $2.6 million in debt from an undisclosed source, according to a recent listing on Crunchbase.

Founded by Marco A. Chacón, an industry veteran who founded and ran Paragon Bioservices for over two decades, Irazu Oncology is commercializing UMB’s novel immunotherapeutic vaccine technology. It operates out of the University of Maryland BioPark. The company is a winner of TEDCO’s Maryland Innovation Initiative Company Formation Awards.

Novel Approach

Irazu Oncology has a licensing deal with UMB to commercialize a membrane vesicle vaccine development platform built at the university by a research team led by James Galen, Ph. D. The platform uses the outer membrane of vesicles — a structure within or outside a cell — as cancer vaccines that can stimulate an immune response. Irazu Oncology’s proprietary, attenuated bacteria are engineered to produce OMVs bearing tumor antigens on their surface. These antigens are delivered to various sites in the body, stimulating a natural immune system that can destroy cancerous cells.

“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,” said Galen, professor of medicine at the university’s School of Medicine and faculty within the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health.

The membrane vesicle platform can also be rapidly adapted to present either tumor-specific antigens or novel spontaneously arising “neoantigens,” to target a wide variety of solid tumors, he added.

Targeting Colorectal Cancer

Irazu Oncology has first targeted colorectal vaccine, the second leading cause of cancer death in adults in the United States. It has completed proof-of-concept studies and its lead vaccine candidate, IRZ-CRC-1, has shown efficacy in preclinical models.

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“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, Ph D., 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.”

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Chacon also runs Irazu Bio, which aims to identify more academic research that could be used for drug development. Among others, it is eyeing immuno-oncology and gene therapy.

In 2019, Chacon sold Paragon Bioservices, a contract development and GMP manufacturing organization, to Catalent Pharma Solutions for $1.2 billion. He serves as chairman of Paragon, which specializes in process development and GMP manufacturing of viral vectors for gene therapy.