Selecta, Sanofi partnership nothing to sneeze at

Deal could total up to $300 million each for up to three candidates

Kelsey Kaustinen
WATERTOWN, Mass.—Biopharmaceutical company SelectaBiosciences Inc. and Sanofi have entered into a strategic global collaborationfor the discovery of highly targeted, antigen-specific immunotherapies for life-threateningallergies. The agreement represents the first time the companies have workedtogether, as well as Selecta's first collaboration with a large pharmaceuticalfirm.
 
Per the terms of the agreement, Selecta has granted Sanofian exclusive license to develop immunotherapies, designed to counter acuteimmune responses, against an undisclosed life-threatening food allergen. Sanofialso has an option to develop two additional candidate immunotherapies forallergies each for a food or aeroallergen.
 
The therapies will make use ofSelecta's proprietary Synthetic Vaccine Particle (SVP) platform.
 
Selecta is eligibleto receive preclinical, clinical, regulatory and sales milestones of up to $300million per allergen indication for up to three immunotherapy candidates, aswell as up to double-digit tiered royalties as a percentage of product net salesfor each successfully commercialized immunotherapy.
 
"We are very pleased that Sanofi, a global leader invaccines and immunology, is entering into a partnership with Selecta to developand commercialize products from our immunotherapy platform," Dr. WernerCautreels, president and CEO of Selecta, said in a press release. "Inallergies, as well as autoimmune diseases, organ transplantation and proteinreplacement therapies, there is a lack of specific, effective and safetreatments to prevent undesired immune reactions. Selecta's SVP technology canrestore balance to disregulated immune systems by producing immune tolerance tospecific antigens. Our approach addresses the underlying causes of thesediseases and thereby makes advances beyond today's symptomatic treatments andallergen-avoidance strategies."
 
The collaboration grants Sanofi access to Selecta's SVPplatform, which can create powerful antigen-specific immune responses throughfully synthetic engineering, with improved efficacy and safety profiles. Theplatform enables the creation of nanoparticles with the specific structure andcomposition necessary to engender immune tolerance by countering the immunesystem's overreaction to allergy-causing antigens, and the therapies canco-deliver antigens and immunomodulators. Each immunotherapy "can be engineeredto induce either humoral or cellular immunity for therapeutic as well asprophylactic applications," Selecta notes on its website, and is based onbiodegradable nanoparticles.
 
Selecta's antigen-specific nanoparticle technologies consistof targeted Synthetic Vaccine Particles, which activate immune responses to arange of antigens and can target either humoral or cellular pathways, andantigen-specific targeted tolerogenic Synthetic Vaccine Particles, which aredesigned to induce antigen-specific immune tolerance. Selecta currently hasvaccines for malaria, smoking cessation and tolerogenic immunotherapies fortype 1 diabetes and allergies in its pipeline.
 
There is little question as to the potential of thecollaboration's focus, as the allergy drug market is expected to top $14.7billion by 2015 in the United States alone. The field of allergies represents atarget area of interest for both companies, says Cautreels, and yet one with"very limited therapeutic or very limited treatment opportunities."
 
"If you think about diseases that are perhaps known better,think about asthma or at least certain aspects of asthma—you can treat themwith products that address the symptoms, but never the real cause of thedisease, which is the allergen to which a patient has been exposed," heexplains. "Another way of thinking about allergies is by desensitization, whereyou give actually the allergen to which the patient is sensitive and you startwith very small doses, and then you treat it over time … but there is not atthis point in time, to my knowledge, nothing that is specifically addressingallergies in a specific way, where you design a vaccine that is specificallyfor that allergy, and I believe therefore the market is really very important."
 
Cautreels says Selecta will "absolutely" consider additionalsimilar collaborations with other companies in the future, pointing to the flexibilityof the SVP platform.
 
"This is a platform technology that can go in differentdirections, that can include … stimulation that can apply to infectiousdiseases, that can apply to cancer, and the down-regulation that can apply tomultiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes. As we have a platform technology with alot of different directions, clearly we are open to any further collaborationin different areas," he concludes.
 

Kelsey Kaustinen

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