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Selecta, Sanofi partnership nothing to sneeze at
WATERTOWN, Mass.—Biopharmaceutical company Selecta Biosciences Inc. and Sanofi have entered into a strategic global collaboration for the discovery of highly targeted, antigen-specific immunotherapies for life-threatening allergies. The agreement represents the first time the companies have worked together, as well as Selecta's first collaboration with a large pharmaceutical firm.
Per the terms of the agreement, Selecta has granted Sanofi an exclusive license to develop immunotherapies, designed to counter acute immune responses, against an undisclosed life-threatening food allergen. Sanofi also has an option to develop two additional candidate immunotherapies for allergies each for a food or aeroallergen.
The therapies will make use of Selecta's proprietary Synthetic Vaccine Particle (SVP) platform.
Selecta is eligible to receive preclinical, clinical, regulatory and sales milestones of up to $300 million per allergen indication for up to three immunotherapy candidates, as well as up to double-digit tiered royalties as a percentage of product net sales for each successfully commercialized immunotherapy.
"We are very pleased that Sanofi, a global leader in vaccines and immunology, is entering into a partnership with Selecta to develop and commercialize products from our immunotherapy platform," Dr. Werner Cautreels, president and CEO of Selecta, said in a press release. "In allergies, as well as autoimmune diseases, organ transplantation and protein replacement therapies, there is a lack of specific, effective and safe treatments to prevent undesired immune reactions. Selecta's SVP technology can restore balance to disregulated immune systems by producing immune tolerance to specific antigens. Our approach addresses the underlying causes of these diseases and thereby makes advances beyond today's symptomatic treatments and allergen-avoidance strategies."
The collaboration grants Sanofi access to Selecta's SVP platform, which can create powerful antigen-specific immune responses through fully synthetic engineering, with improved efficacy and safety profiles. The platform enables the creation of nanoparticles with the specific structure and composition necessary to engender immune tolerance by countering the immune system's overreaction to allergy-causing antigens, and the therapies can co-deliver antigens and immunomodulators. Each immunotherapy "can be engineered to induce either humoral or cellular immunity for therapeutic as well as prophylactic applications," Selecta notes on its website, and is based on biodegradable nanoparticles.
Selecta's antigen-specific nanoparticle technologies consist of targeted Synthetic Vaccine Particles, which activate immune responses to a range of antigens and can target either humoral or cellular pathways, and antigen-specific targeted tolerogenic Synthetic Vaccine Particles, which are designed to induce antigen-specific immune tolerance. Selecta currently has vaccines for malaria, smoking cessation and tolerogenic immunotherapies for type 1 diabetes and allergies in its pipeline.
There is little question as to the potential of the collaboration's focus, as the allergy drug market is expected to top $14.7 billion by 2015 in the United States alone. The field of allergies represents a target 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 them with products that address the symptoms, but never the real cause of the disease, which is the allergen to which a patient has been exposed," he explains. "Another way of thinking about allergies is by desensitization, where you give actually the allergen to which the patient is sensitive and you start with very small doses, and then you treat it over time … but there is not at this point in time, to my knowledge, nothing that is specifically addressing allergies in a specific way, where you design a vaccine that is specifically for that allergy, and I believe therefore the market is really very important."
Cautreels says Selecta will "absolutely" consider additional similar collaborations with other companies in the future, pointing to the flexibility of the SVP platform.
"This is a platform technology that can go in different directions, that can include … stimulation that can apply to infectious diseases, that can apply to cancer, and the down-regulation that can apply to multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes. As we have a platform technology with a lot of different directions, clearly we are open to any further collaboration in different areas," he concludes.