Avacta Group, the Wetherby-based life sciences business, is establishing an immunotherapy focused joint venture in South Korea with Daewoong Pharmaceutical.
Together, the companies will develop the next generation of cell and gene therapies incorporating Affimer proteins to enhance the immune-modulatory effects.
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are promising agents for the treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. The joint venture will develop a new class of MSCs that are primed to produce Affimer proteins, which are designed to enhance the immune-modulatory effect when administered to patients, by reducing inflammatory or autoimmune responses.
Daewoong will provide the joint venture with access to its proprietary technology for generating allogeneic MSCs from a single donor to treat a large number of patients. This proprietary technology facilitates developing cell therapies as “off-the-shelf” products.
Avacta will develop Affimer proteins against several undisclosed targets which will be transferred to the joint venture to be incorporated into MSCs. The resulting engineered MSCs will have broad ranging therapeutic utility, depending on the Affimer proteins’ intended therapeutic purposes.
Avacta’s research and development costs will be fully covered by the joint venture and Avacta retains the rights to commercialise the Affimer proteins outside of the field of cell therapies.
Avacta’s shareholding in the joint venture is 45% with Daewoong holding 55%, and the joint venture will be operationally managed by Seng-ho Jeon, CEO of Daewoong, with a Board composed of representatives of both Avacta (Alastair Smith, CEO and Matthew Vincent, VP Business Development and Strategy) and Daewoong.
“This innovative collaboration will deliver invaluable synergy and lead to new solutions with the potential to transform patients’ lives,” said Seng-ho Jeon.
Dr Alastair Smith, CEO of Avacta, added: “Affimer proteins have the potential to selectively modulate signalling pathways in inflammatory diseases in order to reduce the aberrant immune response occurring in those tissues, as well as positively impacting tissue regenerative pathways meant to repair and restore normal function to the affected tissues.”