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Pfizer to partner with Visterra
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author


CAMBRIDGE, Mass.Visterra Inc. has announced the establishment of a collaboration agreement with Pfizer Inc. to use Visterra's proprietary platform for the discovery of novel antibodies.  
"We are very pleased that our first pharmaceutical partnership is with Pfizer, an industry leader with broad drug development expertise," Steven Brugger, CEO of Visterra, said in a press release.  "This collaboration further supports the potential utility of Visterra's antibody design platform, and we look forward to collaborating with Pfizer while we continue to advance Visterra's own internal product pipeline."
Per the terms of the agreement, Pfizer will pay Visterra an upfront fee as well as research funding. Visterra is also eligible to receive milestone payments if certain research and development milestones are met, as well as being eligible for royalties on product commercialization. Specific financial details were not disclosed.
"We view Visterra's technology as a promising approach for engineering therapeutic antibodies, and look forward to this collaboration," Jose-Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos, Pfizer's senior vice president of Research and Development, Biotherapeutics, said in a statement.  
Visterra's platform is based on "the atomic interaction network analyses of proteins," the company notes on its website, adding that its approach allows "a more in-depth, three-dimensional structural understanding of proteins to (i) identify unique target epitopes and (ii) guide the design of novel drugs to effectively combat disease."  
The company's lead compound is VIS410, a broad-spectrum monoclonal antibody indicated for the prevention and treatment of seasonal and pandemic influenza. The compound targets " a conformational epitope on the stem region of the influenza hemagglutinin (HA) protein," which is conserved across all influenza A strains of the virus in addition to being mutation resistant. Targeting that epitope allows VIS410 to fight "all key potential seasonal and pandemic influenza A strains, including H1N1, H3N2 and H5N1 (or Avian Flu)," with coverage in Group 1 (which includes H1, H2 and H5 strains) and Group 2 (H3 and H7 strains).  
Visterra announced the presentation of positive data for VIS410 this week at the 52nd Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in San Francisco. The data, gathered in a preclinical study to determine the compound's efficacy, revealed VIS410 to be potent and specific in protecting mouse models from lethal doses of influenza. Mice were injected with a lethal dose of influenza A virus, and VIS410 offered protection both as a prophylactic and as a therapeutic.      
To test the compound as a prophylactic, healthy, non-infected mice were given a single dose of VIS410, then infected with either H1N1 or H3N2 influenza A virus, and 100 percent of the mice survived. In testing the compound in post-infection therapeutic studies, mice infected with a lethal viral challenge of either H1N1 or H3N2 received a single dose of VIS410, and 100 percent of the mice survived when given the antibody up to 72 hours after being infected.
"We are highly encouraged by these VIS410 results, which suggest that an antibody approach such as Visterra's may be a turning point in the development of a new universal approach for both seasonal and pandemic influenza," said Brugger in a statement regarding the results. "This study confirms proof of concept for our proprietary platform to identify unique targets that guide the engineering of novel drugs that are designed to be highly effective in the prevention or treatment of infectious disease."  
Moving forward, Visterra intends to further develop its pipeline beyond influenza to target additional infectious diseases.
Code: E09111201



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