LYON, France—Biopharmaceutical company Elsalys Biotech has boosted its portfolio with the acquisition of development and marketing rights for an anti-CD160 antibody from Mablife that thus far has been developed in ophthalmology. Elsalys, which specializes in the development of first-in-class therapeutic antibodies against cancer and inflammatory diseases, has begun preclinical evaluation of different humanized versions of the antibody in age-related macular degeneration, with results expected in the first half of next year. No financial details were released.
The antibody was identified and characterized by Dr. Armand Bensussan of the Skin Research Center and Dr. Philippe le Bouteiller of the Centre de Physiopathologie Toulouse-Purpan.
“The acquisition of anti-CD160 is obviously a great opportunity for a company like ours,” said Dr. Christine Guillen, CEO and co-founder of Elsalys. “With this antibody we not only strengthen our position in antibody immunotherapy, but we reach a stage of maturity that allows us to envisage more rapid development and thus reinforce the commitment of our investors. In addition, it demonstrates once again that the expertise and experience of our team make a difference when it comes to identifying gems with very strong therapeutic potential.”
The CD160 receptor is highly expressed on the surface of the activated endothelial cells that line the blood vessels found in most tumors as well as being associated with the vascular anarchic proliferation found in eye diseases such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. CD160 helps to regulate uncontrolled vascularization because once it binds to its natural ligand, it activates and triggers the death of activated endothelial cells in new vessels; existing vessels are not affected since they don’t express CD160 on their surface.
The agonist antibody reproduces and amplifies the action of the ligand to trigger the death of new vessels as it stabilizes existing ones. In a mouse model of retinopathy, treatment with anti-CD160 restored vascular circulation in the diseased retina, and in models of melanoma and fibrosarcoma, anti-CD160 together with chemotherapy led to a significant reduction in tumor burden and prolonged survival, benefits associated with a decrease in intratumoral blood vessels, stabilization of existing vessels and stimulation of natural killer cell activity. It is also found on the surface of circulating immune cells, such as some natural killer and T cells, and early studies have demonstrated that anti-CD160 prevents tumor escape through the activation of natural killer cells. When combined with other immunity checkpoint inhibitors such as anti-PD1 antibodies, it also helps prevent T cell “exhaustion.”
Given its anti-angiogenesis and immunomodulatory effects, Elsalys has developed two versions of the antibody—one that takes advantage of the anti-angiogenic effect for the treatment of vascular eye diseases, and another that combines both effects to target cancer.
For the ophthalmologic approach, Elsalys notes on its website that the goal is “to provide a new therapeutic option with better specificity and lower administration frequency than current treatments (one injection every three months versus once a month for Avastin).” In terms of cancer, the company commented that the anti-CD160 antibody “shows a competitive profile in oncology, notably in B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia.”
“The anti-angiogenic effect of anti-CD160 is really new. Unlike other drugs of its class, anti-CD160 does not deprive the new blood vessels of growth factor to hinder their development, but induces their death while preserving the existing vessels,” le Bouteiller said in a press release. “With this antibody, we are thus able to reduce new retinal vessels in mice eyes with retinopathy.”
This antibody offers a potential new approach to anti-angiogenesis treatments, as most therapeutics in that category target VEGF. Additionally, preliminary data has found that the anti-CD160 antibody has a synergistic effect with anti-angiogenics targeting VEGF.