Avacta and Daewoong Pharmaceutical form immunotherapy joint venture  

Joint venture to develop next generation cell and gene therapies incorporating Affimer proteins

Avacta Group, the developer of Affimer biotherapeutics and reagents, and Daewoong Pharmaceutical, a Korean pharmaceutical company, have agreed to establish a joint venture in South Korea, and to enter 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.

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.

“Our partnership reinforces the shared vision of both companies to design the next level of treatment paradigm, and to open up a new horizon in immunotherapeutic strategies”, said Seng-ho Jeon. “This innovative collaboration will deliver invaluable synergy and lead to new solutions with the potential to transform patients’ lives.”

“We are very excited to establish the joint venture with Daewoong, a world-class partner, combining our powerful Affimer platform with MSCs to develop breakthrough medicines targeting immune-mediated diseases”, said Dr Alastair Smith, CEO of Avacta. “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. We look forward to working closely with the Daewoong team to advance these promising therapeutics, and get them to the patients who need them.”