Lead contiguous overlapping peptide candidate against birch pollen allergy is poised for Phase II studies.

Swiss allergy immunotherapeutics firm Anergis raised CHF 18 million (about $20 million) in a Series A round of financing co-led by Vinci Capital-Renaissance PME, BioMedInvest, and Sunstone Capital. The new investment takes the total capital raised by the young firm to CHF 21 million (roughly $23 million).

Anergis will use the funds to carry out a large Phase II study with its lead birch pollen allergy product, AllerT, and build its preclinical portfolio. The firm says the investment will cover its financial requirements for the next two years.

Anergis is exploiting a technology known as contiguous overlapping peptides (COPs) to develop desensitizing, specific immunotherapy (SIT) anti-allergy candidates. The COPs technology was originally developed by researchers at the University of Lausanne, the Federal Institute of Technology, and the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois.

COPs essentially reproduce the full amino acid sequence of the allergen but in separate long peptide molecules, the firm explains. This means all T-cell epitopes of the original allergen are presented to the immune system, but there is no cross-reactivity with IgE, and so no allergic response is elicited. These features means COPs candidates can be administered at much higher doses than either classical extracts or the entire allergen. 

Anergis says work to date with AllerT and a PLA2-based bee venom COPs product, AllerB, have confirmed that high doses of COPs can be administered safely within a few days, equivalent to about ten times the dose usually reached after months of progressive dose increases using classical desensitization protocols. Placebo-controlled studies in allergic patients have in addition confirmed that a cumulative dose of either AllerB or AllerT can be achieved in 6-10 weeks, compared with 3-5 years for traditional SIT approaches. Patients treated using COPs demonstrated marked increases in specific serum IgG4, an immunological marker of tolerance, Anergis notes.

The firm is also working on two new COPs-based products targeting what it calls highly prevalent respiratory allergies, and has also initiated its first food-allergy project, against peanut allergies.  

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