UBS-Backed Biotech Programme Targets Cancer Vaccines

Tom Burroughes Group Editor 22 August 2022

UBS-Backed Biotech Programme Targets Cancer Vaccines

The up to $3.75 billion collaboration will discover, develop and commercialize multiple programmes, including vaccines and potential treatments in areas of infectious diseases and oncology, UBS said.

A biotech business backed by funds from UBS has partnered with Merck, the biopharmaceutical company, to work on a new generation of vaccines aimed at cancer. The collaboration involves up to $3.75 billion of funding. 

UBS Global Wealth Management and BioImpact Capital, an affiliate of MPM Capital, last week said Orna Therapeutics, a biotechnology company founded by MPM and BioImpact Capital with funding from the UBS Oncology Impact Fund, has agreed to the collaboration. 

The collaboration will discover, develop and commercialize several programmes, including vaccines and potential treatments in areas of infectious diseases and oncology.

Orna will receive $150 million cash from Merck, known as MSD outside the US and Canada, and up to an additional $3.5 billion in development, regulatory and sales milestones, as well as royalties on approved products. Merck will also invest $100 million in Orna’s $221 million Series B financing, which will value the company at over $1.5 billion.

Orna was created by MPM and BioImpact Capital in 2019, based on research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“This collaboration marks a tremendous success for the biotech industry and for our clients that invested in the UBS Oncology Impact Fund,” Iqbal Khan, co-president of Global Wealth Management and president EMEA at UBS, said. “This is a testament to what can be achieved when we bring together our clients’ wealth and a shared vision to drive greater impact in society. 

Orna uses a new generation of ribonucleic acid (“RNA”) strands, known as oRNA or circular RNA, to change how RNA sends instructions to cells to make specific proteins. 

Circular RNA , which has shown greater stability than conventional, linear RNA, has the potential to produce larger quantities of therapeutic protein inside the body, increasing the ability to treat infectious diseases, as well as cancer, UBS said. 

UBS said a portion of the performance fees from both of its oncology funds, and royalties from treatments developed by the funds’ startup companies such as Orna, will be donated to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) to help fund grants for next-generation cancer research, and to the UBS Optimus Foundation to improve access to cancer care in the developing world.

The first UBS Oncology Impact Fund was created in 2016 as an impact initiative that invests in private and public companies developing treatments for cancer and other illnesses. Clients of UBS Global Wealth Management contributed all the fund’s capital, $471 million. (The second Oncology Impact Fund was formed in 2020 and was 75 per cent funded indirectly by UBS clients via a feeder fund. Together, the two funds have attracted over $1.3 billion in capital.)

Register for WealthBriefingAsia today

Gain access to regular and exclusive research on the global wealth management sector along with the opportunity to attend industry events such as exclusive invites to Breakfast Briefings and Summits in the major wealth management centres and industry leading awards programmes