AC Immune is expanding its prospects in Parkinson’s disease with a deal to acquire drug programs from Affiris that address a promising target in the neurodegenerative disorder. The assets include one drug candidate that’s ready to advance to mid-stage clinical testing.
According to terms announced Tuesday, the stock transaction is valued at $58.7 million. Lausanne, Switzerland-based AC Immune is paying for the Affiris assets with more than 7 million shares of its stock at the price of $8.26 each. The per share price is a 16% premium to the closing price of AC Immune’s stock on Monday. In addition to receiving the Affiris assets, AC Immune will also receive $5 million cash from the privately held biotech company, which is based in Vienna, Austria.
The centerpiece of the deal is PD01, a vaccine candidate that targets a protein called alpha synuclein. While the cause of Parkinson’s is not known, alpha synuclein is toxic to nerve cells and the abnormal deposition of this protein is associated with the disease.
PD01 was developed with Affiris’ Affitome technology, which develops amino acid sequences that mimic the epitopes—parts of the antigen to which an antibody attaches—of the pathogenic forms of proteins. These amino acid sequences are linked to a carrier protein and formulated with an adjuvant to form a therapeutic vaccine. Injected subcutaneously, these vaccines are intended to stimulate the production of antibodies against a pathogenic protein.
In Phase 1 testing that dosed 24 patients, the vaccine candidate was able to induce antibody responses. Furthermore, the study showed evidence that the antibodies were able to engage with alpha synuclein, leading to a 50% reduction in levels of the pathogenic form of the protein in cerebrospinal fluid. Repeated administration of PD01 was safe and well tolerated by patients who were followed for about three and a half years. Results from the study were published recently in The Lancet Neurology.
Concurrent with the acquisition of the Parkinson’s assets, AC Immune is also raising $25 million by selling company stock to a select group of investors who may purchase shares at the same price as the shares in the Affiris transaction. This group of investors includes two family offices, Athos Service and First Capital Partner. MIG Fonds also gains equity in AC Immune via its prior ownership of stake in the acquired anti- alpha synuclein assets. Those three entities were early investors in BioNTech.
The proceeds from the stock transactions will support Phase 2 development of the alpha synuclein-targeting Parkinson’s asset, which comes in a new formulation and has the new name ACI-7104. In an investor presentation, AC Immune said part 1 of the clinical trial will evaluate the initial responses to this optimized formulation of the Parkinson’s vaccine, with a focus on assessing immune responses to alpha synuclein and pathogenic forms of the protein. The study will also assess the progression of Parkinson’s symptoms. The trial will then transition to a proof-of-concept Part 2 portion of the study.
The Phase 2-ready Affiris vaccine candidate brings AC Immune its most advanced program for the disorder. In the investor presentation, the company said addition of the therapeutic vaccine positions the company to address the full spectrum of Parkinson’s drug development, complementing preclinical programs that are developing antibodies and small molecules, as well as a diagnostic that has advanced to human testing. The other disclosed neurodegenerative disorder addressed by the AC Immune pipeline is Alzheimer’s disease .
The acquisition of the Affiris assets is still subject to regulatory approval in Austria, according to an AC Immune regulatory filing. The companies expect to complete the deal at the beginning of the fourth quarter of this year.
Meanwhile, Affiris said that the transaction allows the company to turn its attention to partnering other assets in its pipeline, including programs in cardiometabolic and neurodegenerative diseases.
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