Looking to replicate Covid-19 success in neuro, BioNTech backers bet on AC Immune and its newly-acquired Parkinson's vaccine
The German billionaires behind BioNTech have found a new vaccine project to back.
Through their family office Athos Service, twin brothers Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann are leading a $25 million private placement into Switzerland’s AC Immune — which concurrently announced that it’s shelling out $58.7 million worth of stock to acquire Affiris’ portfolio of therapies targeting alpha-synuclein, including a vaccine candidate, for Parkinson’s disease.
Building on the other a-syn drugs and diagnostics already in its pipeline, the deal means AC Immune can now cover the full spectrum of treatment modalities against the protein, CEO Andrea Pfeifer said.
On top of the assets, AC Immune is also getting $5 million in cash from Vienna-based Affiris.
Having optimized the formulation of Affiris’ original drug, PD01, into a new candidate dubbed ACI-7104, the biotech plans to vault directly into a Phase II study, where it will evaluate an initial dose-response while tracking biomarkers and progression of Parkinson’s symptoms.
The biotech had already developed two other vaccines against neurodegenerative diseases: the anti-tau ACI-35.030 and anti-amyloid ACI-24, both to treat Alzheimer’s. It’s also been active in pushing next-gen tau drugs for the brain-wasting ailment — long before Biogen shook up the field with its Aduhelm win — although its Roche-partnered lead program has seen its share of setbacks.
While the Parkinson’s vaccine is positioned for long-term management, Pfeifer noted it may also play a role in prevention of the disease by stirring up an antibody response against oligomeric a-syn.
At the same time, the company also boasts of an anti-a-syn antibody, a small molecule aggregation inhibitor, and a first-in-class diagnostic imaging agent for a comprehensive precision medicine approach — both to Parkinson’s and alpha-synucleinopathies.
“We have learned from Covid-19 that collaboration can accelerate the development of safe and efficacious vaccines that can be deployed broadly to deliver highly effective protection for very large populations,” Thomas Strüngmann said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Company to potentially translate what has been done for infectious diseases to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.”
First Capital Partner and MIG Fonds have joined Athos for the financing. All three investors were also the main shareholders of Affiris, AC Immune noted in a presentation.