The first company created through a collaboration of Baxalta, Mayo Clinic, and Velocity Pharmaceutical Development (VPD) has acquired all rights to Astellas Pharma’s BAFF/APRIL dual antagonist program through an asset purchase agreement whose value was not disclosed.

Vitesse Biologics has established a new entity, Thunderbolt, which has acquired rights to the BAFF/APRIL dual antagonists. They will be developed for B-cell disorders, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

Baxalta, Mayo Clinic, VPD, and Astellas are all shareholders in Thunderbolt, which is focused on the development of antibody and protein-based therapeutics in the areas of immunology, hematology, and oncology.

Baxalta, Mayo Clinic, and VPD have agreed to contribute to development costs associated with the program. Through Vitesse, Baxalta will provide global commercialization and antibody and protein development and manufacturing capabilities, while Mayo Clinic clinicians and researchers will advise on the selection of preclinical candidates, disease indications, and the design and conduct of Phase I clinical trials through Mayo's Office of Translation to Practice.

VPD has agreed to oversee target identification, selection of early-stage drug candidates, and the design and execution of preclinical testing, while also advising the early clinical protocols.

Immunology is one of three areas of therapeutic focus for Baxalta, the former Baxter BioScience global biopharmaceutical business of Baxter International until the unit was spun off last year.

“We are excited to begin to accelerate the development of the BAFF/APRIL dual antagonist program with the potential to deliver innovative treatments for patients with unmet needs,” John Orloff, M.D., Baxalta’s head of research & development and CSO, said in a statement.

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