Cuban-French Collaboration Starts to Bear Fruit

Feb 12, 2014

In what is claimed to be the first ever start-up launched on the basis of a European-Cuban R&D alliance, the newly formed ABIVAX (based in Paris, France) is now working with the Cuban Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (Centro de Ingenieria Genética y Biotecnologia, CIGB) to develop therapeutic vaccines and antivirals.

ABIVAX combines the technologies and the product portfolios of three French biotech companies financed by Truffle Capital (Wittycell, Splicos, and Zophis). The Cuban government has approved a partnership agreement with the CIGB, which is the largest among the dozen or so subsidiaries under BioCubaFarma that specialize in the discovery, development and production of vaccines and antivirals.

“We are proud to have founded ABIVAX after two years of discussion with Cuba, which is known for its excellent physicians and high-quality vaccines,” said Philippe Pouletty, MD, founder and Chairman of ABIVAX. “ABIVAX is the first biopharma company to have established a major collaboration with Cuba. This is an international project that is intended to place France and Cuba at the forefront of progress in the field of therapeutic vaccines.”

Among the products in development are a therapeutic vaccine for chronic hepatitis B from CIGB and Wittycell; a novel anti-viral drug for AIDS from Splicos; an anti- human papilloma virus (HPV) therapeutic vaccine to treat, without surgery, uterine cervix dysplasia and prevent the emergence of cancer from Wittycell; and a novel adjuvant to boost natural killer T (NKT) and B cell response from Wittycell.

ABIVAX has two therapeutic vaccines in development: one in a Phase IIb clinical trial in patients with chronic hepatitis B, and the other one expected to enter into a Phase I clinical trial in 2015 for the treatment of chronic infection with HPV and cervical dysplasia (an early stage in cervical cancer). The adjuvant is in Phase I clinical studies. In the field of AIDS, the company's first antiviral drug is scheduled to enter clinical trials in Q1 2014. Additional therapeutic vaccines are in preclinical development.