Shire $SHPG is getting in early on an investigational product that might one day replace IV infusions of concentrated antibodies given to patients to boost their immune systems. The move could get Shire’s foot in the door of a multibillion-dollar market.
These antibody cocktails, made from the plasma of thousands of blood donors, are often given to patients whose immune systems don’t make enough antibodies to fight germs that cause infections. The therapies, called intravenous immunoglobin or IVIg, are part of a market that’s projected to be worth $10.9 billion by 2022. But IVIg therapies are cumbersome to make and require visits to clinics or hospitals for patients to get treatment.
Today, the pharma giant announced it has licensed a preclinical autoimmune candidate from AB Biosciences that’s designed to improve on IVIgs. The asset is a recombinant protein (an engineered oligomeric Fc protein) that interacts with all human Fcy receptors. The company calls it a pan receptor interacting molecule, or PRIM, and it mimics the binding activity of immune complexes.
The hope, of course, is that PRIM will have similar effects to IVIg, cutting out the need to source plasma from thousands of patients to make the product.
Equally interesting is AB Biosciences’ theory (backed by early-stage data) that PRIM is biologically active at lower doses than IVIg, which might mean the company can find a way to deliver the drug in new ways. If patients didn’t have to go to hospitals or clinics to get treatment, the drug could be highly competitive.
“The novel design of this investigational antibody-derived recombinant protein therapeutic and promising biological activity demonstrated in preclinical models makes the PRIM program an exciting opportunity for Shire to further expand its leadership and commitment to treating patients with autoimmune disorders,” Shire CSO Andreas Busch said in a statement.
In exchange for an exclusive worldwide license to develop and commercialize the technology, AB Biosciences got an upfront license fee payment and is eligible to get R&D and commercial milestone payments and royalties. Details were not disclosed.
“This agreement provides the opportunity to accelerate the development of the PRIM program and potentially benefit patients with autoimmune and inflammatory disorders that are currently treated with the traditional human IVIg preparations,” said Yen-Ming Hsu, president and CEO of AB Biosciences. “As a global biotech leader in the development and commercialization of biologic therapeutics, Shire is the ideal development and commercialization partner for our innovative PRIM program, particularly given their proven developmental expertise and continuing success in their IVIg commercial franchise.”
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