In the first of four features on Meissa Vaccines, Big4Bio spoke with Meissa Vaccines CEO Marty Moore about Meissa’s drive to deliver vaccines against respiratory infections, the technology behind their pipeline, its relevance in today’s post-pandemic world, and what the future holds for the company.
Company to Watch – Meissa Vaccines
By Marie Daghlian
Meissa Vaccines is on a mission to solve a puzzle that has eluded scientists for decades—a pediatric vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.
Identified in the 1950s, RSV can cause serious respiratory tract disease in infants, children, and older adults. The World Health Organization estimates that RSV causes as many as 33 million serious respiratory infections a year resulting in more than 3 million hospitalizations and nearly 60,000 deaths in children under 5 years of age. Despite years of research by big and small pharmaceutical companies to develop a vaccine, no one has yet been able to develop one that is safe and effective in infants.
But Marty Moore, CEO and co-founder of Meissa Vaccines, plans to change that.
Moore has been working on RSV for more than 19 years, first as a professor in the pediatric infectious disease division of the medical school at Emory University. During that time, his lab developed a system for manipulating the genetics of RSV, which turned out to be a powerful technology for vaccine discovery.
In 2014, he teamed up with Roderick Tang, who had led RSV research and development teams at MedImmune for 11 years, to found Meissa Vaccines and bring the technology into the clinic.
At the time, no one told him that investors had little interest in vaccines and infectious diseases. Still the partners established a presence in Johnson and Johnson’s JLABS in South San Francisco, received seed capital in 2017 to work on their technology, and piqued the interest of Morningside, which provided the company with $30 million in series A funding in September 2019. Since then, Meissa has put together a strong team of vaccine specialists and moved two vaccine programs, one for RSV and one for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) into the clinic, with a third program against metapneumovirus moving toward IND.
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