Engineered toxin bodies reportedly possess active intracellular properties that may be helpful in overcoming delivery hurdles.

Molecular Templates entered into a research collaboration with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals. They will evaluate and develop Molecular Templates’ technology for targeted delivery of RNAi therapies. Molecular Templates is developing a class of biologic therapies called engineered toxin bodies (ETB).

These agents evolved from a toxin scaffold that was engineered with a unique targeting domain and designed for reduced immunogenicity. ETBs retain the predictable pharmacokinetics, mechanism of action, ability to induce internalization, and intracellular self-routing capabilities of the parent scaffold, according to Molecular Templates.

The company has created libraries of ETBs that can be screened on functionality where the target may or may not be known. These properties allow ETBs to target cell-surface or intracellular targets that may be intractable to antibody or small molecule approaches, Molecular Templates adds.

“ETBs represent a new class of targeted biologics that possess active intracellular properties that uniquely positions us to address delivery of RNAi drugs in a target directed manner,” notes Eric Poma, Ph.D., president and CEO of Molecular Templates.

Molecular Templates uses its Direct Select Platform to identify ETBs for various disease settings including cancer, virology, autoimmune diseases, and neurological disorders. The firm’s lead ETB candidate, MTI-SAM3, is for melanoma. It is undergoing preclinical development.

In July 2010, ImClone Systems signed on Molecular Templates to conduct oncology drug discovery and translation research. ImClone will carry out preclinical studies utilizing the ETBs identified by Molecular Templates. Upon completion of the ETB evaluation, Molecular Templates and ImClone have the option to continue exclusive development of selected ETBs by ImClone for potential commercialization by its parent company, Eli Lilly.

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