When his friend of 40 years proposed him to start a business, Victor Vadaneaux, Polytechnician (X83) and MBA holder from Harvard couldn’t resist. Today, the start-up Altevax is a combination of business genius and scientific competence of two friends. The objective: treat cancer and infectious diseases especially in the epidemic phase.
A story of two different courses
Altevax is a story of two old friends, Victor Vadaneaux and Antoine Carpentier. The two met in the early-80s in Première in Louis-le-Grand lycée. With their baccalaureate in hand, they started out on two different journeys. While Antoine studied medicine and became a researcher, Victor turned towards engineering and then launched himself in the world of entrepreneurship.
« Antoine was always good at whatever he did and looked to innovate radically, never being satisfied with an incremental improvement of doing things. During his discovery of melanin as an immunotherapeutic adjuvant, Antoine invited me to join him on the adventure called Altevax as the president of the firm. » recalls Victor.
Altevax at a glance
A biotech that uses a revolutionary innovation in immunotherapy. It is the result of a shared discovery between the Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris, Sorbonne University North (Paris XIII) et University of Paris under the direction of Professor Antoine Carpentier, head of neurology at St.Louis Hospital.
« We are developing an immunotherapy against glioblastoma, a common form of brain cancer which is very aggressive. We are actually in the pre-clinical trial phase having already completed successfully the production of certain elements of treatment and regulatory phases before the clinical study on human beings. »
The objective of Altevax is to transform this innovation into pharmaceutical products for which there can be multiple applications from cancer to other infectious diseases.
Science behind Altevax
The immunotherapy of Altevax is based on the use of melanin as an immunotherapeutic adjuvant. Melanin is a natural pigment found in skin and hair. During his research, Professor Antoine Carpentier found that melanin when combined with a peptide following an original and patented formulation, evokes a strong and specific immuno-response to the peptide, the CD8+ cells (Cytotoxic T Cells), the strongest defenders in our body. This patented technology could be applied to treat cancers and infectious diseases. It has a strong potential to be made rapidly and thereby treat a new pathogen provoking an epidemy.
According to Victor, the pressure to make the right choice between different strategic options is perpetual. Access to financing, marketing, rate of development, existing and required skills, inherent risk related to pharmaceutical development, balance between accuracy of available scientific data and the need to treat patients are some of the issues an entrepreneur has to deal with regularly in this sector. Interestingly, this is also what makes Victor passionate about the sector.
Latest developments and next steps
Altevax took the opportunity to test its product on the model of a viral infection. This objective allowed them to accelerate their process of melanin production for clinical use. However, being a small team, a choice had to be made between the two developments. Hence, the start-up decided to halt the process for the moment.
“We will conduct clinical trials of phase 1 from now till the next two years. It will give us the last proof, the most important one, of the efficiency of our technology. We do not need to worry about the harmful effects of our technology as melanin already exists in the human body and our immunotherapy uses it in small doses. The Phase 1 will give us a proof of efficiency. If it is the case, the reach of our technology will be more tangible and we could develop other immunotherapies based on the same technology for other indications in cancer and infectious diseases.” explains Victor
Advice to budding entrepreneurs
Today, opportunities for entrepreneurs are driven by a very favourable environment. This is due to the clear path and successes achieved by many entrepreneurs over the past 2 decades, as well as the possibility of raising funds for ambitious, high impact and realistic project. The past year has taught us the need to adapt, have flexible structures that respond to new challenges with incredible speed. I would therefore advise anyone who has a project to get started without hesitation