Kary Mullis, Ph.D., the Nobel Prize-winner for inventing PCR, entered a joint venture with Loxbridge Research to form Altermune Technologies, focused on combating resistant pathogens. Loxbridge will provide a milestone-based seed-funding package worth $7 million.
“We chose to proceed with Loxbridge over other suitors because, unlike our other potential funders, the investment is smart money that comes with project management and hands-on commercial expertise,” remarks Dr. Mullis. “It seems to work very well that the investor is also the entrepreneur, able to pilot the project. This structure frees me from ongoing business administration and enables me to focus on the science.”
Dr. Mullis will work as CSO, while Dr. Charles Roberts, CEO of Loxbridge, will become president of Altermune for the initial developmental period. The new firm will leverage "programmable immunity," which involves re-tasking antibodies that are ubiquitous in all humans, present at a high background level, and that are ordinarily not tasked by the body in fighting infections.
Linker molecules are used to redirect these antibodies to selected pathogens. The linker molecules work through having two distinct ends. One end binds a consistent cell-surface target on the pathogen using an aptamer (a single-stranded oligonucleotide), and the other end presents specific epitopes that attract the circulating antibodies.
Once attached to the pathogen, the antibodies then activate a full immune response, heightened because they are the individual’s own endogenous antibodies. The approach therefore is expected to harness the power of the immune system yet circumvents the disadvantages of administering mAbs, such as immunogenicity and high costs.
“The initial priority is to build on the compelling proof of concept of the Altermune platform—demonstrated in vivo against influenza and against anthrax by U.S. Air Force scientists—into a broad pipeline of compounds against clinically and commercially relevant pathogens,” says Dr. Roberts.