16 March 2022

RocketVax strengthens its technology portfolio and Covid-19 vaccine development through broad-based partnerships

RocketVax AG has entered into a new partnership with a broad-based consortium to accelerate the development of the second-generation Covid-19 vaccines.

RocketVax AG, a subsidiary of Swiss Rockets AG, has entered into a new partnership with a consortium of renowned research institutions. The collaboration with the consortium provides RocketVax with an additional portfolio of technologies. Members of this new consortium are leading institutes from Switzerland and Germany: the Institute of Virology and Immunology IVI, the University of Bern, the University of Geneva, the Freie Universität Berlin, and the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute. The consortium is led by Prof. Volker Thiel, the Institute of Virology and Immunology and the University of Bern, a pioneer in coronavirus research whose research team is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation’s National Research Program “Covid-19” (NRP 78). RocketVax and the consortium are financially supported by the German Research Foundation, Innosuisse, the Canton of Basel-Stadt, and private investors.

The goal of RocketVax is to find a solution for several health issues: Covid-19, cancer, and infectious diseases. The combination of RocketVax and consortium technologies enables vaccines based on attenuated live viruses. 

The agreement, signed on 1 February 2022, covers research and development collaboration with the Institute of Virology and Immunology. More than 40 professors and postdoctoral fellows from Switzerland and Germany are working now within RocketVax projects, and their immediate focus is to develop a second-generation vaccine against Covid-19. 

Compared to the first-generation vaccines, RocketVax's vaccine differs in the following ways: 

  • it provides a longer-lasting immune response resulting from T-cell activation; 
  • the vaccine is effective despite mutations on the coronavirus spike protein because it contains all viral proteins and not only the spike protein; 
  • nasal administration in the form of a nasal spray is possible;
  • the vaccine remains stable even at higher temperatures.

In 2021, Unispital Basel, the University of Basel, and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute have agreed to collaborate with RocketVax. The goal is to develop a next-generation vaccine against Covid-19 that will provide better protection against viral mutants and elicit a longer-term immune response. The collaboration is embedded in the existing close and productive research collaboration between the three institutions. University Hospital Basel provides start-up funding of one million Swiss francs to enable preclinical research on the new vaccine, which has already begun. The University of Basel and Swiss TPH participate through research infrastructure and human resources. The canton of Basel-Stadt supports the research collaboration with a contribution of one million Swiss francs from the location promotion fund.

About Swiss Rockets AG

Founded in 2018, Swiss Rockets AG is implementing a paradigm shift in healthcare. Patients benefit from new therapies developed with innovative and pioneering methods. The Swiss Rockets AG team combines expertise and experience to create innovative medicines focused primarily on cancer and viral diseases.

The founders of Swiss Rockets AG are Dr. Vladimir Cmiljanovic, Dr. Natasa Cmiljanovic, Manuel Ebner, Dr. Thomas Sander and Dr. Thomas Staehelin. Vladimir Cmiljanovic is the CEO, a medicinal chemist, and entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in cancer drug development. He is the founder of the Swiss biotech companies PIQUR AG and TargImmune AG. With his sister Dr. Natasa Cmiljanovic, the Chief Scientific Officer of Swiss Rockets AG, he has developed cancer drugs at the University of Basel. He has also founded and managed several biotech companies. Manuel Ebner is a Managing Director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Switzerland, and a strategic advisor to Swiss Rockets AG. Dr. Thomas Sander, one of the first employees of the biotech company Actelion, is a scientific advisor to Swiss Rockets AG. Dr. Thomas Staehelin, the co-founder of Swiss Rockets AG, is a member of the Executive Board and Chairman of several shareholder companies and foundations.

Members of the Board of Directors of Swiss Rockets AG are Dr. Vladimir Cmiljanovic (Chairman), Prof. Dr. Michael N. Hall, a renowned researcher and professor at the Center for Molecular Biosciences at the University of Basel, Dr. Natasa Cmiljanovic, a medicinal chemist and clinical scientist with experience in the development of cancer drugs, Dr. Thomas Ladner, a business lawyer, founder and co-founder of several successful start-ups and the World. Minds Foundation, and André Debrunner, a financial expert and fund manager at Northern Trust Switzerland AG.

About RocketVax AG

RocketVax AG is a Swiss biotech startup based in Basel and founded in 2020. The company is based on the connections between Swiss Rockets AG, a Swiss incubator and accelerator for startups, Gigabases Switzerland AG, a spin-off of ETH Zurich, and a team of expert scientists from the University of Basel, the University of Zurich, ETH Zurich, the University Hospital Basel, and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel.

At RocketVax, we use proprietary molecular biology and chemical technology to develop novel vaccines. Our first product is RVX-13, a live vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 based on breakthrough genetic engineering. Leading Swiss experts in immunology and virology have joined forces to translate a novel development concept against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a pathogen that has already ravaged countless lives worldwide, into a next-generation vaccine.