Aslan, Yumanity, Editas, Janssen and More Team Up to Fight Disease

Alliances - Gathering at sunset

In a variety of agreements and collaboration announcements, biotech companies across the world are merging forces to research treatments for dermatitis, cancer, neurological diseases and more.

Aslan Pharmaceuticals and Academia

Immunology-focused biopharma company Aslan Pharmaceuticals is tackling atopic dermatitis (AD) in its latest collaboration. Aslan is teaming up with Shawn Kwatra, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the Johns Hopkins Itch Center, and Madan Kwatra, Ph.D., director of the molecular pharmacology laboratory in the department of anesthesiology at Duke University Medical Center.

Together, the researchers and Aslan will focus on understanding the role of IL-13Ra1 subunit signaling in Type 2-mediated inflammatory diseases, particularly in atopic dermatitis. The researchers will use Aslan’s eblasakimab, a monoclonal antibody targeting the IL-13 receptor. Eblasakimab showed positive results in a Phase Ib study, and the drug is currently undergoing assessment in the TREK-AD Phase 2b clinical trial to evaluate its safety and effectiveness in atopic dermatitis.

 “This collaboration will help us understand the unique role of IL-13Ra1 signaling in AD, and provide a mechanistic basis for eblasakimab’s differentiation versus other pathway-specific treatments,” Dr. Ferda Cevikbas, head of translational sciences at Aslan said. “We are looking forward to working with Dr. Shawn Kwatra and Dr. Madan Kwatra to generate insights that inform how the differentiated targeting of IL-13-relevant pathways might benefit AD patients who are yet to find relief from this chronic disease.”

Editas & Immatics

Editas Medicine and Immatics N.V. are teaming up in a strategic research collaboration and licensing agreement to combine gamma-delta T cell adoptive cell therapies and gene editing to develop cancer treatment medications. The collaboration combines Editas Medicine’s gene editing technology with Immatics’ ACTallo allogeneic, off-the-shelf adoptive cell therapy platform. Together, the companies will research gamma-delta T cells, which can be redirected to recognize and destroy cancer cell targets.

As part of the agreement, Editas will receive an upfront cash payment for an undisclosed amount, as well as additional milestone payments. In addition, Immatics will pay royalties on future net sales from any products that may result from this collaboration.

“We believe that our gene editing technology can modulate and enhance the potential of cell therapies to deliver transformative medicines for the treatment of cancer. We are excited to work with the team at Immatics to develop new experimental medicines with enhanced tumor fighting abilities to help patients with cancer,” Gilmore O’Neill, president and CEO of Editas Medicine said.

Yumanity (Soon to be Kineta, Inc.) and Janssen

Boston-based Yumanity Pharmaceuticals announced two agreements.

The first is an agreement in which Yumanity is selling its lead clinical-stage product candidate, YTX-7739, as well as its unpartnered discovery-stage neuroscience product candidates and targets to Janssen Pharmaceutica NV. The sale totals $26 million. When the deal closes, Yumanity will distribute any remaining available cash proceeds from the sale to its stockholders via a one-time dividend, although the company does not yet know how much that dividend will be.

The second agreement sees Kineta, an immunotherapy biotech company, becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Yumanity. It will be an all-stock transaction. The end result will be a combined publicly traded company re-named Kineta, Inc., that will focus on immuno-oncology. Current Kineta stockholders are expected to own approximately 85% of the combined company, with current Yumanity stockholders anticipated to own approximately 15%.

Kineta, Inc. will continue Yumanity’s research collaboration with Merck & Co. and will advance Kineta’s lead therapy, KVA12.1, a VISTA-blocking monoclonal antibody immunotherapy treatment that could potentially be used to treat several types of cancers.

Serotiny & Janssen Biotech

Serotiny, a pre-clinical biotech company dedicated to gene and cell therapies, announced a collaboration with Janssen Biotech. As part of the agreement, Serotiny’s therapeutic Multi-Domain Protein (tMDP) engineering platform will combine with Janssen’s antibody development and cell therapy expertise. Together, the companies hope to create next-generation chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-based cell therapies.

Ginkgo Bioworks & Novo Nordisk 

Ginkgo Bioworks, which aims to program cells as easily as we program computers, announced a multi-year agreement with Novo Nordisk. Together, they hope to create novel expression hosts for pharmaceutical products. Ginkgo will receive an upfront R&D fee of an undisclosed amount and will be eligible to receive more payments as the companies hit milestones.

“We're excited to be working with Novo Nordisk in our efforts to use biology to create better medicines for patients with chronic diseases," Jason Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks said.

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