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ARM Innovation Hub
24 September, 2021 - 21:50 By Tony Quested

AstraZeneca pumps millions into super-vaccines and therapeutics venture

AstraZeneca, the Cambridge Big Biotech world leader, is investing millions to back RNA technology from VaxEquity to produce a new generation of super-vaccines and therapeutics plans to commercialise 26 drug targets under the deal using ICL-generated IP.

The collaboration is designed to progress VaxEquity’s platform technology through proof of concept to enable the development of multiple products. VaxEquity could receive development, approval and sales-based milestones totalling up to $195 million and royalties in the mid-single digits per drug target. 

VaxEquity also received an upfront equity investment from AstraZeneca and global life sciences investor Morningside Ventures.

Michael Watson, executive chairman of VaxEquity, said: “We are delighted to collaborate with AstraZeneca given its strong track record in innovation and welcome them as a new investor. 

“We are also grateful for the ongoing support of our existing investor, Morningside Group. With our self-amplifying RNA platform we aim to underpin the next generation of RNA-delivered medicines enabling not only vaccines but also broad range of therapeutic applications.”

Professor Robin Shattock, Head of Immunology of Infection within the Department of Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London, and co-founder of VaxEquity, said: “We have all seen how technologies based around RNA have been fundamental to preventing ongoing severe disease and death in major global pandemics. The prospect of further therapeutic applications adds to this technology’s great potential.”

The proprietary, flexible platform enables the simultaneous expression of a broad range of targets and immunomodulatory proteins that can be rapidly produced and delivered at scale. 

Using saRNA, rather than mRNA, means that a lower (1/3 to 1/10th) dose of RNA is required to provide greatly enhanced protein expression as the RNA replicates for longer post-administration. 

VaxEquity modifies the RNA to include elements (called ‘Innate Inhibitory Proteins’ or IIPs) that finely tune the innate immune response (based on interferons) preventing suppression of RNA replication and thereby maximizing protein expression by saRNA.

Mene Pangalos, executive VP, BioPharmaceuticals R & D at AstraZeneca, said: “This collaboration with VaxEquity adds a promising new platform to our drug discovery toolbox.

“We believe self-amplifying RNA, once optimised, will allow us to target novel pathways not amenable to traditional drug discovery across our therapy areas of interest.”

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