Wetherby-based drug company Avacta agrees pioneering partnershp with South Korean pharmaceutical firm

Drug developer Avacta has established a joint venture with South Korean pharmaceutical company Daewoong to develop next generation cell and gene therapies incorporating its Affimer proteins.

Alastair Smith, chief executive of Avacta. Picture: Simon Hulme

The Wetherby-based firm said it had entered into a collaboration and license agreement for the joint venture that will incorporate Avacta’s Affimer proteins to enhance the immune-modulatory effects.

Avacta will develop Affimer proteins against several undisclosed targets which will be transferred to the joint venture to be incorporated into Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs).

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Dr Alastair Smith, CEO of Avacta, said: “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.”

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.