Anokion Announces Exclusive Strategic Collaboration with Celgene to Develop Novel Tolerance-Inducing Therapeutics for Autoimmune Diseases
LAUSANNE, Switzerland, and CAMBRIDGE, MA January 9, 2017
Anokion, a privately held biopharmaceutical company developing novel tolerance-inducing therapeutics for autoimmune diseases, today announced the formation of an exclusive global research collaboration with Celgene Switzerland LLC, an affiliate of Celgene Corp.
Under the terms of the collaboration agreement, Anokion received a $45 million upfront payment and is eligible to receive a future payment of an additional $10 million based on certain preclinical development achievements. As part of the strategic collaboration agreement, Celgene obtained an equity interest in Anokion and the exclusive right to acquire Anokion at pre-specified option exercise points.
During the option period, Anokion will retain full control of its research and development programs.
Anokion is advancing its antigen-specific immune tolerance platform to develop therapeutics for multiple autoimmune indications. This proprietary and industry-leading platform has diverse applications that include tolerizing the immune system to self-antigens that underlie autoimmune disorders as well as reducing the immunogenicity of therapeutic proteins.
Anokion’s most advanced approach to immune tolerance harnesses the body’s natural tolerance mechanism of apoptotic or aging cells. It involves engineering antigens, relevant to a broad range of autoimmune disorders, to bind glycophorin A, a surface protein unique to erythrocytes or red blood cells. When these circulating blood cells undergo apoptosis, the immune system recognizes the attached antigens and elicits a tolerogenic immune response against them.
Additionally, Anokion is developing a liver-targeted tolerance approach through which engineered antigens attach to liver cells, which trigger a tolerogenic response.
Dr. Rupert Vessey, EVP and President of Research and Early Development of Celgene, commented, “We are very pleased to enter into this collaboration with Anokion, as we believe their novel approaches to harnessing the natural, tolerogenic processes of the immune system have the potential to translate into a new treatment paradigm for a broad array of autoimmune disorders.”
“We are extremely pleased to be working with the outstanding team at Celgene. Anokion is thrilled to be a part of their insightful vision and initiative to develop and bring the next generation of therapeutics to patients in need,” said Jeffrey A. Hubbell, the Academic Founder, Chairman and CSO of Anokion. Dr. Hubbell also is Professor of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago, and formerly Professor of Bioengineering at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).
“This deal is a testament to the powerful technology platform Jeff and his team have built at Anokion. We’re very pleased to have partnered with Celgene to enable us to fulfill our mission of developing multiple therapies for a variety of autoimmune diseases,” said Tom Woiwode, Ph.D., an Anokion board member and a managing director at Versant Ventures, which co-led the company’s series A financing.
Anokion, a spin-off from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), is focused on applying the company’s antigen-specific immune tolerance technology to treat autoimmune and allergic diseases and reduce the immunogenicity of therapeutic proteins. As a platform technology, Anokion’s approach to antigen-specific immune tolerance can be translated to virtually any protein in numerous clinical indications. Anokion’s investors include Versant Ventures, Novo Ventures, Novartis Venture Fund and a group of individual investors.