ROCHESTER, N.Y.—With Copaxone established as a market leader and laquinimod from Active Biotech in late phase clinical trials, Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical has now entered into a collaboration with Vaccinex Inc. to develop and commercialize a third anti-MS therapeutic, VX15, a novel human antibody discovered by Vaccinex.
The company claims that VX15 promises to provide two mechanisms of action that will suppress the body's immune response and block damage to the central nervous system of people suffering from the disease. The antibody has also shown anti-tumor activity in animals where it inhibits blood flow to the cancer cells, depriving them of necessary nutrients.
According to the terms of the agreement, Teva will make an equity investment in Vaccinex and pay undisclosed fees, milestones and royalties on product sales for the exclusive right to develop and commercial VX15 in multiple sclerosis and other disease indications. Vaccinex retains rights to oncology indications and will continue to conduct all preclinical development activities which will be funded by Teva. Teva will have an option to participate as a co-development partner in oncology after Vaccinex completes Phase I clinical trials.
Teva and existing Vaccinex investor, Pan Atlantic Bank and Trust Limited, are participating as lead investors in Vaccinex's third major financing round, which the company anticipates will exceed $25 million.
Multiple sclerosis is the leading cause of neurological disabilities in young adults, Teva says, and the company estimates that there are 400,000 people affected in the United States and more than a million worldwide.
This is the second recent foray into collaboration with a foreign firm for Vaccinex. In late 2006, the company entered into an agreement with OPi SA, which develops pharmaceuticals for rare diseases, whereby OPi was granted exclusive worldwide rights to OPR-003, a fully human anti-interleukin-6 (IL-6) antibody and to several alternate antibodies. Vaccinex selected the antibody using its proprietary vaccinia vector technology it calls AntiMab.
"Vaccinex has developed unique library-based antibody discovery platforms capable of directly expressing bivalent, fully human antibodies in mammalian cells," says the company's vice president of operations Raymond E. Watkins. Unlike other antibody systems using transgenic mice, Vaccinex's technology offers the potential to directly generate fully functional antibodies against targets that are difficult to address with other technologies. In addition, Watkins notes, Vaccinex's technology can be used to fully humanize mouse and other non-human antibodies.
According to Vaccinex, few other companies have the ability to generate fully human antibodies. As a result, it plans to leverage its technology by providing it as a service to assist other companies in discovering novel therapeutic antibodies.