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Metis Foundation, Targeting Military Researchers, Plans Fund Raise

Xconomy Texas — 

San Antonio — [Corrected 1:20 p.m. See below.] A San Antonio nonprofit that aims to help medical researchers earn grants is beginning to raise money for a program that it says may be able to provide funding to both researchers working on new cancer vaccines and patients who participate in early stage clinical trials.

The Metis Foundation, founded two years ago, tries to help medical researchers get federal government grants, particularly scientists working in the military who might be able to qualify for funding from the U.S. Department of Defense. Though the foundation will work with scientists from other organizations, its primary focus is military researchers.

Metis is modeled after other similar nonprofits, including the Bethesda, MD-based Henry Jackson Foundation, which offer infrastructure, funding, and administrative services to researchers who may have scientific developments, but lack the know-how or resources to get funding for clinical development, according to Rodney Chan, chairman of the Metis board.

San Antonio is a hotbed of medical research, including the Brooke Army Medical Center, the U.S. Air Force’s 59th Medical Wing, and the burn center housed at the United States Army Institute of Surgical Research. While the Henry Jackson Foundation focuses on getting grants to government researchers broadly, the organization is large and can miss some of the R&D work in San Antonio, Chan says. He and the Metis co-founders felt they could provide assistance in landing funding for researchers here, from  simply helping them develop proposals to aiding with human resources.

“Because there’s so much research medically related in San Antonio, there needs to be an organization that has a personal footprint here,” Chan said in an interview in his downtown San Antonio office. Chan is the chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Army’s burn center.

Now the Metis Foundation is beginning to raise private capital for researchers specifically developing cancer vaccines. The foundation hopes to raise $3 million over three years to help provide funding for the vaccine research, as well as to potentially use some of the money to help cover the expenses incurred by patients who might participate in any clinical trials related to it, according to Dan Hargrove, a Metis board member.

Hargrove, who is the chief development officer for a contract research organization focused on immunotherapy in town called Cancer Insight, is directing the foundation’s cancer vaccine-focused fundraising and research work, aptly called the Cancer Vaccine Development Program. He expects to initially try to raise the money from nonprofits and public foundations in San Antonio that have an interest in cancer.

Thus far, cancer vaccines haven’t been very successful. There is a long list of experimental cancer vaccines that have flopped in trials, among them GlaxoSmithKline’s MAGE-A3, Merck KGaA’s Stimuvax, and most recently, Celldex Therapeutics’ (NASDAQ: CLDX) rindopepimut. The only cancer vaccine to win FDA approval was Dendreon’s sipuleucel-T (Provenge).

Nonetheless, investments in cancer vaccines have continued, as they’re one … Next Page »

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