Innova Memphis Inc. has made its second investment, this time in Vaxent, a Memphis-based vaccine development company.

Innova president Ken Woody would not disclose the size of the investment in Vaxent, but called it a “major play for us.”

“Vaxent presents a tremendous opportunity for bioscience growth in Memphis,” says Woody. “This company is a great fit with our other Memphis investments.”

Innova is a biotech investment fund that focuses on businesses in their early stages. The non-profit was created by the Memphis Bioworks Foundation in 2007 and funded with $11.5 million by MemphisED. Innova invested in arGentis Pharmaceuticals LLC, a local specialty pharmaceutical company, in April this year.

Vaxent’s lead product in development is a vaccine against group A streptococcus, which is the primary cause of pharyngitis or “strep throat” in children. It also causes other diseases such as necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease) and rheumatic fever, which occurs primarily in adults. The science behind these products was developed at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis.

Pharmaceutical industry veteran Todd Patrick will take the reins as the company’s CEO. Patrick was the president and COO of vaccine development company ID Biomedical Corp., which was acquired by GlaxoSmithKline for more than $1.5 billion.

“For starters, a realistic near-term goal is to complete a strategic partnership relative to the continued development of the company’s lead program in group A streptococcal vaccine research,” Patrick said in a statement. “From there, we can decide how best to enhance Vaxent’s potential and increase the value of the business.”

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