Avacta Group (LON:AVCT), the developer of Affimer® biotherapeutics and reagents, has today announced that it has agreed to establish a joint venture in South Korea with Daewoong Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., a leading Korean pharmaceutical company, and to enter into a collaboration and license agreement for the joint venture to develop the next generation of cell and gene therapies, incorporating Affimer proteins to enhance the immune-modulatory effects.
Dr Alastair Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Avacta Group, commented:
“Cell and gene therapies are attracting intense clinical and commercial interest. We are very excited to establish this joint venture with Daewoong, one of the top pharmaceutical companies in Korea, to develop the Affimer platform in this important therapeutic area. Our vision is to combine our platforms to create the next generation of cell therapies, for which the potential is huge.
“Within the last six months alone we have seen early stage stem cell companies acquired for significant sums. For example, Bayer acquired control of Blue Rock for $600m, valuing the company at close to $1bn; and Vertex acquired start-up Semma Therapeutics, which is developing stem cell therapies for type 1 diabetes, for $950m.”
“This joint venture will have a unique opportunity to generate superior cell therapies for some of the most pressing needs in immune-mediated disease. We look forward to working closely with the Daewoong team to develop these new medicines, and get them to the patients who need them.”
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 and autoimmune responses.
Avacta will develop Affimer proteins against several undisclosed targets which will be transferred to the joint venture to be incorporated into MSCs. Avacta’s research and development costs will be fully covered by the joint venture which is funded by Daewoong. Avacta retains the rights to commercialise the Affimer proteins outside of the field of cell therapies.
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 the development of cell therapies as “off-the-shelf” products.
Avacta’s shareholding in the joint venture is 45%. 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.
Dr Seng-ho Jeon, CEO of Daewoong Pharmaceutical, commented:
“Our partnership reinforces the companies’ shared vision of designing the next level of treatment paradigm, and opens up a new horizon in immunotherapeutic strategies. This innovative collaboration will deliver invaluable synergy and lead to new solutions to transform patients’ lives.”