Ambitious local biotech outfit Imugene is making an aggressive bid to “bulk up” its research pipe with a $20 million capital raising as it seeks to strengthen its position in an emerging field of cancer vaccine research.

It’s the biotech sector’s biggest fund raising since Viralytics raised $30 million at the start of the year.

If it succeeds, it will give the chairman Paul Hopper the chance to build up another biotech minnow similar to the work he did at Viralytics where he has just signed off on its sale for $500 million.

Imugene (ASX:IMU) has today unveiled a $20 million raising priced at 2.7c a share — a handy discount to its last price traded of 3c.

The bulk of the funds ($12 million) is being raised via a placement, with the remaining $8 million funded through a share issue on the ratio of one for every 9.5 held — with an attached option exerciseable at 4c signalling optimism for the company’s research prospects.

Both Imugene and Viralytics are chaired by Paul Hopper who sold Viralytics to Merck.

Imugene shares over the past year (ASX:IMU).
Imugene shares over the past year (ASX:IMU)

The Imugene strategy is aimed at giving the company a powerful position in the field of B cell cancer vaccines.

Research success under Imugene chief executive Dr Leslie Chong has driven a significant re-rating of the shares — with the stock tripling on her watch.

The latest fund-raising will strengthen Imugene’s grip in the promising field of B cell peptide vaccines since it is acquiring key US research in the same field.

Specifically, funds will be used to access the entire body of cancer vaccine work of Professor Pravin Kaumaya of Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Centre, and the Mayo Clinic.

Professor Kaumaya has developed multiple B-cell cancer vaccines, and he has a strong reputation in the field of cancer vaccine research.

Joining Imugene’s work with that of Professor Kaumaya could significantly enhance Imugene’s worth since B cell peptide therapy is seen as a promising new platform of research in the field of immune-oncology.

Imugene is advanced in its work with the PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor, while work by Professor Kaumaya is being finalised for pre-clinical trials is also on PD-1, for example.