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December 18, 1997

Onyvax Receives £4.3m in Venture Financing

Onyvax, an early stage biotechnology company, established earlier this year to develop cancer vaccines for the treatment of a range of cancers, has attracted funding from a syndicate of investors totalling over £4.3m to finance early clinical trials.

Funding was jointly led by the Cambridge office of investment capital group 3i and Alta Berkeley. SR One, the venture capital arm of SmithKline Beecham, and Alberville Investments, a company controlled by the Peter Sager Wallenberg Charitable Trust, provided additional funds.

Based in London, Onyvax has been built around the work of Professor Angus Dalgleish, a leader in the field of cancer vaccines, who holds the Foundation Chair in Clinical Oncology at St. George's Hospital Medical School and is visiting Professor of Oncology at The Institute of Cancer Research. The other members of the management team are Anthony Walker, Chief Executive and Peter Smith, Finance Director. The company's non-executive Chairman is Barrie Haigh, founder of Innovex, the world's largest pharmaceutical contract research and sales organisation which merged with Quintiles in 1996.

The concept of mobilising the power of the immune system in the fight against cancer dates back over a century. Onyvax believes that recent breakthroughs in the fields of genetics, immunology and oncology now provide the tools to direct the immune system to attack cancer. Pre-clinical models of its vaccine strategy have yielded compelling results and it is Onyvax's plan to enter the clinic with a vaccine for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer in around twelve months. Over time Onyvax's portfolio will broaden to include vaccines for a range of major solid tumours.

Onyvax's vaccines are based on cell-lines derived from human tumours which can be grown on an industrial scale. Such cell lines contain numerous molecules that are specific for the tumour but which are normally incapable of generating an effective immune response. By modifying the cell-lines, Onyvax can dramatically increase the immune response to these molecules.

Commenting on formation of Onyvax and its research, Chairman Barrie Haigh said: "The effective treatment of most solid tumours still represents a vast unmet medical need. It is Onyvax's mission to develop treatment vaccines for a range of cancers to keep patients in remission for an extended period. The administration of our vaccines will not require a stay in hospital and should be virtually free of side-effects making them a cost-effective addition in the fight against cancer with a concomitant increase in the quality of life for patients."

Tim Brown of 3i Cambridge, on behalf of the investor syndicate said; "This area of biotechnology is generating strong interest from major pharmaceutical companies due to its potential to develop therapeutics in large markets where there exist unmet medical needs. In Onyvax we are backing a strong team including a leading authority in the field who has already achieved promising pre-clinical results."

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