Swiss neurodegenerative disease therapeutics firm AC Immune and Hong Kong-based Essex Bio-Technology agreed to collaborate on the development of a recombinant protein therapeutic for treating neurodegenerative diseases and neuroinflammation, including Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia.

Essex will provide research and financial support for pre-IND development, and the two firms will then work jointly on clinical development and commercialization. No financial details were disclosed.

Essex specializes in the development biopharmaceuticals based on recombinant DNA technology. The firm made a $5 million equity investment in AC Immune in April 2016. Commenting on the new collaboration, Patrick Mia Je Ngiam, Ph.D., Essex Bio-Technology board chairman, said, “We are pleased that Essex Bio-Technology's strategic investment in AC Immune has now taken a step further into this R&D collaboration. We will leverage our mutual expertise with the aim to deliver novel solutions in the specialty areas of neurodegeneration and neuroinflammation where there is an unmet medical need.”

Andrea Pfeifer, Ph.D., CEO of AC Immune, added, “This agreement is also important because it gives AC Immune its first R&D base in Asia with potential new development opportunities in that region.”

AC Immune is leveraging its SupraAntigen™ immunotherapy platform and Morphomer™ small-molecule technology to generate a pipeline of antibodies, vaccines, and small-molecule candidates that target misfolded proteins in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. The firm’s clinical pipeline is headed by the fully humanized anti-beta-amyloid IgG4 antibody crenezumab, which AC Immune outlicensed to Genentech in 2006. Genentech is evaluating crenezumab in the Phase III CREAD trial in 750 patients with prodromal or mild Alzhimemer’s disease. In February, AC Immune reported that Genentech had elected to carry out a second Phase III study, CREAD2, in an additional 750 patients. Genentech and AC Immune inked a second tau antibodies development deal in 2010.

In April 2016, AC Immune and Biogen established a partnership to develop an alpha-synuclein positron emission tomography (PET) radioligand imaging biomarker for Parkinson’s disease and to develop PET radioligands for TDP-43, a potential diagnostic target for neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. AC Immune teamed up with Janssen Pharmaceuticals in 2015 to develop anti-tau vaccines for treating Alzheimer’s disease and other tau-related disorders and has a separate partnership with the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences to develop a novel, minimally invasive tau diagnostic assay for the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. AC Immune and Piramal Imaging established a partnership in 2014 to develop AC Immune’s tau protein PET tracers for the diagnosis and clinical management of Alzheimer’s disease and other potential tau-related disorders.

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